Investigators have pieced together the sequence of events of the bombings
They fanned out north and south, east and west, hoping to draw a burning cross across London on July 7. After synchronizing their watches at King’s Cross station, the four young men took different trains on the Underground. On their back each of them carried rucksacks, loaded with ten pounds of high-grade military explosives. They looked like four lads on a hiking holiday. Closed-circuit television cameras even caught them laughing together. But they were about to strike terror into the heart of London by becoming the first suicide bombers to attack mainland Europe.
Shehzad Tanweer, 22, boarded an eastbound Circle Line train to Aldgate. Only the night before, Khaka, as friends called him, had been playing cricket in Leeds in North Yorkshire, 280km north of London. Born in nearby Bradford, he was a keen cricketer, intelligent, a joker and described as a sweet lad.
His father, Mohammed, had come from Pakistan 30 years earlier, building up a fish and chip business from nothing. At 8.50a.m., Tanweer detonated his lethal luggage, killing himself and six other people, as well as destroying his family’s life forever.
Meanwhile, Mahammed Sadiyue Khan, 30 the oldest of the four, was heading in the opposite direction on a westbound Circle Line train. Khan was married to the girl he fell in love with a Leeds University and had a young child. He wasn’t keen on wearing traditional Muslim clothes or growing a bread, and was generally known as a nice guy. He worked at a primary school, teaching four-year-olds, a job he apparently loved so much that he was often late for prayer meeting at his local mosque.
A few seconds after Tanweer’s operation, just outside Edgware Road station Khan detonated his explosives, also killing himself and six other people.
Not much is known about the third bomber, partly because so little of his body has been found. He is though to be Eliaz Fiaz, also known as Jacksy. He blew himself up a few moments after Tanweer, just as his southbound Picadilly Line train was approaching Russell Square. It was at one of the deepest points on the network, more than 100 feet down in a single bore tunnel. There was barely six inches between the train and the walls, which compounded the impacts of the explosion. Including Fiaz, 25 people died, but the figure might still rise.
The fourth bomber, Hasib Hussain, possibly the youngest of the team, had tried to get on a northbound Northern Line service after leaving his friends, but was thwarted by a defective train. At this point, it seems that the 19-year-old panicked. He headed out of the station and boarded a crowded, double-decker bus, Number30, along with many other commuters who were unable to use the underground network, now almost at a standstill. At 9.45 a.m., he started to rummage around frantically in his luggage.
There was standing room only. You can imagine the crush, said Richard Jones, a passenger standing near the back of the bus. This chap kept dipping down into his bag. He was fiddling away and he kept getting annoyed with something. He kept bumping into me. It was getting on my nerves.
Realizing that the bus was being diverted into Tavistock Square, Jones asked the driver to be let out. As he walked away, he heard an awful scream. John Falding heard it too. He was at home, talking to his girlfriend, Anat Rosenburg, who was on the bus. I told her there has been an incident at Liverpool Street and Edgware Road, Falding said. Just then, I heard a scream in the background. It was ghastly, not of this world. It was high-pitched and I think it might have been a man.
And the phone went dead. At 9.47 a.m., Hussain, the fourth bomber, had killed himself and 12 others, most probably in a state of abject terror, unable to defuse the bomb that has been ticking in his rusksack.
The explosion blew the top of the bus off and tore limb from limb. Ironically, it was after the gruesome discovery of Hussain’s head, a telltale sign of a bomber, that the security services worst fears began to be realized. Suicide bombing had come to Britain and, worse still, it was homegrown, making it harder to detect. All four of the bombers were clean skins – no police or M15 records had been kept on any of them.
The investigation moved very quickly once DNA testing has matched head tissue with Hussain’s personal effect found in Tavistock Square. The police had also recived a call, late on the day of the bombing, from Hussain’s anxious Pakistani parents, who had heard of the bombing and were worried about their son’s whereabouts. After they reported him missing, his name was logged. When it matched the personal effect and DNA, police swooped on their house in a rundown suburb of Leeds. Five other local properties were found, following by the discovery of more explosive in a car at Luton station.
There are two worries now: was there a Mr Big behind the scenes who flew in from abroad, made the bombs and flew out again? And what will happen to community relations in Leeds, where there is already some hostility towards the Muslim community? Religious leaders of all denominations have called for calm. Politicians, too, are urging restraint. Some of the greatest anger, though, has come from Muslims themselves.
The first British-born Muslim MP, Shaid Malik, whose constituency includes two of the raided houses, said: Some very religious people have been on the phone to me and said, These evil f******, we don’t care, we cannot tolerate this. This is from the Muslim community saying whoever the combers are, wherever they are, they will find them.
Certainly, there is much soul-searching in the Muslim community, as its leaders and British try to establish why these young British people turned to hate. Is opposition to Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War the sole reason, as an al Queda-linked Web site claimed? Or is it down to something more sinister?
Shehzad Tanweer’s uncle said he blamed the radicalization of his clam, loving, normal boy on extremists he met while on a study trip to Lahore. He went to study with clerics in Pakistan from December to January this year. He must have come into contact with radicals there. He never talked about politics, although he had been religious for a couple of years. I know he must have been a part of this terrible thing but I am sure the plan was not his doing. There is definitely somebody evil behind it. While the search continues, London tries to return to normal, but the capital, once famed for its multi-cultural mix, will never be the same again.