By Steve Bird, Adam Fresco, Richard Ford and Adam Luck|
Hassan Omar, left, caught on camera at Warren Street Tube
station, and Muktar Said-Ibrahim, who is thought to failed
to explode his bomb on the No 26 bus
Ibrahim had served time in Huntercombe Young Offenders
Institution, Oxfordshire, according to Whitehall sources,
and Omar, was known as a shoplifter.
As children, both fled civil war and bloody conflict in Eritrea
and Somalia for the safe refuge of Britain. Yet they came
to hate their adopted homeland so much that they volunteered
for suicide bombing missions.
In preparing for martyrdom Ibrahim, 27, and Omar,
24, had turned the tower block that they shared with hundreds
of people into a terrorist safe house and a bomb factory.
Forensic science teams have found traces of explosives in
flat No 58 and the rubbish chute as well as a substantial
cache of bombmaking chemicals in a lock-up garage.
Tanya Wright, who lives on the floor below Omars rented
flat in Curtis House, said that she saw both men on Friday
afternoon, the day after the failed bombing attempts. I
saw them acting suspiciously outside their flat, Miss
Wright said. As soon as they saw me they jumped back
in the flat and shut the door. They looked shocked and panicked.
She has given a statement to police who are increasingly
concerned that, having failed in their missions, Ibrahim and
Omar returned to rearm and try again.
The would-be bombers both arrived in Britain as refugees
from Africa. Omar, a Somalian, arrived in 1992, aged 11. He
is thought to have spent most of the next seven years in foster
care. He was granted exceptional leave to enter Britain for
four years. That was extended and in May 2000 he was granted
indefinite leave to remain, entitling him to live permanently
in Britain. He has been able to work legally since he was
Ibrahim, also known as Muktar Mohammed-Said, was given exceptional
leave to remain in Britain in 1992. He had arrived with his
family from Eritrea. In November 2003 he applied for British
citizenship which was granted, with a passport, last September.
Ten months before he tried to blow up a No 26 bus in Hackney,
East London, he swore an oath of allegiance, stating that
he would be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her
Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her Heirs and Successors,
according to law.
There was growing concern in Whitehall last night over how
he had made a successful citizenship application despite having
Ibrahim was once a criminal gang member jailed for violent
muggings, it emerged last night. A year after leaving school,
he was arrested in Royston, Hertfordshire, after a street
robbery. Members of the gang were jailed at Luton Crown Court
in 1996 for terms ranging between two and four years after
admitting five robberies in the Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage
areas. Ibrahim received five years because he had been carrying
Ibrahim also committed crimes in Letchworth.
He served his sentence at Huntercombe Young Offenders
Institution, near Henley-on Thames, and later at HMP Woodhill,
Buckinghamshire, it was claimed last night. One report stated
that he took part in a riot in which several prison officers
The Home Office was unable to comment last night on how Ibrahim
was able to obtain a British passport following his conviction
and prison sentence.
One former friend, a member of the same criminal gang, said
that Ibrahim turned to radical Islam after meeting fellow
Muslim inmates in jail. I bumped into him [after he
had left prison]. He had grown a beard and moustache and was
wearing Muslim headgear. I asked: What happened?
He smiled and answered, Im taking life a bit more
The former friend, also jailed for the same offence, said
when he had first met Ibrahim, he was a swaggering, teenager
who drank alcohol and smoked marijuana.
Ibrahim was known as a menacing, drug-smoking racist bully
at Canons High School in Edgware, North London. He attended
the school between 1992 and 1996. Wayne Howard, a white former
pupil of the school, claimed that Ibrahim once racially abused
him to provoke a fight. He called me a white honky.
I was furious and swore back. It was what he wanted
he punched me hard in the face and I ended up with a bad black
eye. He was excluded twice for fighting, he said.
Ibrahims parents, Mohammed and Esha, who live in Stanmore,
where many East African refugees settled, said yesterday that
they were shocked to see their son pictured as one of the
would-be suicide bombers.
Police confirmed that the family contacted them immediately,
bringing the first firm information that enabled police to
name the bomb suspects and find their hideaway. In a statement
the family said they were peaceful people and had acted immediately
after seeing Ibrahims image on television.They said:
We immediately attended the local police station and
made statements to the police.
Muktar left this address in 1994. He is 27 years of
age. He lives alone elsewhere. He is not a close family member.
He has not visited here for many months. The family wish to
express their shock regarding recent events and in no way
condone any acts of terrorism.
One of the familys neighbours said that she had seen
him recently and he spoke of a wish to die as a martyr. Sarah
Scott, 23, who has known Ibrahim for 12 years, said that in
November he handed her a copy of a pamphlet called Understanding
Islam, written by an Islamic scholar.
She said: He asked me if I was Catholic because I have
Irish family and I said I didnt believe in anything.
He said I should. He told me he was going to have all these
virgins when he got to Heaven if he praises Allah. He said
if you pray to Allah and if you have been loyal to Allah you
would get 80 virgins, or something like that.
He gave me a book and told me to read it. He said it
would change my views. He said people were afraid of religion
and people should not be afraid.
One paragraph in the book, by Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips,
highlighted by Ibrahim, said: Anyone who says there
is no God (worthy of worship) except Allah and dies
holding to that (belief) will enter Paradise.
Ibrahim is thought to have moved to New Southgate in about
2000. Omar had been a Curtis House tenant since leaving care
at 18, paying rent with £88 a week housing benefit.
The two are thought to have become friends because of shared
interests in Islam both are believed to have worshipped
at Finsbury Park mosque and football, playing regularly
in nearby Arnos Park. Neighbours in the block said they were
both lads who, until recently, were seen hanging
around with the wrong crowd.
Muhammad Hassan, a grocery store owner, said that he once
banned Omar from his shop. I saw him trying to steal
some food, Mr Hassan said. I told him to leave
and never to come back. He was always living off social benefit
and paid for food and telephone top-up cards with small change.
He said that in recent years he saw Ibrahim and Omar together
in his shop, usually late at night.
Sammy Jones, 33, said she recognised Ibrahim as the man named
by police as having targeted the No 26 bus. He had been staying
at a flat on the ninth floor with two or three other men.
Ms Jones said that she recently saw some of the men from the
flat filling the lift with cardboard boxes.
Ms Jones said: I asked what it was, and one of them
said wallpaper stripper.