BUTCHERS OF MUMBAI ARE BRITS
By Paul Jeeves, John Twomey and Cyril Dixon | November 29, 2008
Anti-terror police were last night investigating a “British connection” with the Mumbai fanatics.
They were examining links between Britain’s Islamic community and the killers who slaughtered at least 160 victims.
Highly-placed sources in India claimed that at least seven of the killers, who caused carnage in India’s commercial centre, had strong British connections.
Two of them were said to come from Leeds, as did two of the four London July 7 bombers.
Another of the gunmen – all believed to be from Pakistani backgrounds – was alleged to have links to Bradford in West Yorkshire and a fourth to Hartlepool on Teesside. Investigations are also underway in Dewsbury, Yorkshire.
Although there was no official confirmation of the links, counter-terrorism officers were last night understood to be active across the North.
The clearest evidence of British involvement came from Indian Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who said that two British-born Pakistanis were among eight arrested.
Last night one of the Indian commandos involved in the gun battles said they had seized at least five BlackBerry devices which the Islamic extremists had used to access British news websites, including live TV streams.
A senior officer in the country’s elite Black Cat commando unit said the devices meant that the terrorists could keep abreast of developments outside their boltholes even when power supplies to the hotels they were attacking were cut off.
“There was a lot of content from the English media, not just in London but the Urdu and Arabic sites that are very strong in the North of England,” he said. “We have some analysis started on this and we will pass it on to Scotland Yard.”
A senior security source said: “The situation is far from clear, but you cannot rule out the possibility that a number of young men from home-grown communities are mixed up.”
A police source said: “We are probing the underbelly of religious extremism but are having to tread extremely carefully. The fallout of 7/7 is still rife among these communities and there is a real reluctance to co-operate.
“It is a fast-moving situation in India, but we have to be on top of things as they emerge and cannot rule out any links to the UK.” The source added: “The camps in Pakistan are full and many of the people inside are Britons.”
The source suggested that the attack could have been revenge for the killing of Rashid Rauf, a British Al Qaeda chief blown up by the US last week.
Some sources speculated that Rauf, the son of a baker, may even have helped to plan the mounting of outrages similar to the Mumbai massacre.
Birmingham-born Rauf, said to have been linked to an alleged plot to set off bombs on packed transatlantic planes, died in a missile attack.
A leading British expert on terrorism also suggested that coverage of the Mumbai atrocity was creating a new phenomenon – celebrity terrorism.
“What the Mumbai terrorists really wanted was an exaggerated and preferably extreme reaction on the part of governments, the media and public opinion,” said Paul Cornish, head of Chatham House think-tank.
“In these terms, the attackers received as much attention as they could possibly have hoped for, and the Mumbai outrage can only be described as a very significant terrorist success. Welcome to the age of celebrity terrorism.”
Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Prime Minister Gordon Brown both said it was too early to confirm whether the gunmen in Mumbai were British – but added that the possibility was being investigated.
The British Al Qaeda connection was exposed on July 7 2005 when four Muslim fanatics killed 52 innocent people in suicide bomb attacks on the London transport network.
Ringleader Mohammad Sidique Khan came from Dewsbury and had recruited his cohorts in West Yorkshire mosques.
The 31-year-old teaching assistant brainwashed British-born Hasib Hussain, 18, and Shehzad Tanweer, 22, both from Leeds, and Jamaican-born Germaine Lindsay, 19, from Aylesbury, Bucks, to join him.
British anti-terror police are now running photographs and film footage of the estimated 25 Mumbai gunmen and potential suspects through the latest image-recognition computers.
A spokesman for Counter-Terrorism North confirmed their involvement in investigating possible links.
But he stressed: “At this stage, we are not in receipt of any intelligence or information linking the events in India to our area.”
The two Britons believed to have been arrested were seized after commandos stormed two five-star hotels and a Jewish centre in attempts to free hostages.