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British Police Arrest Four in Two Birmingham Raids


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

We have new developments this morning in the London terror attacks investigation. British television news reports, quoting security sources, say police have arrested one of the four men they've been seeking for last week's attempted bombings in London's mass transit system. The man was one of several arrested today in the central city of Birmingham and in other parts of the country, part of a massive manhunt for the suspected bombers. And police also say they've recovered a suspicious package during early morning raids on two Birmingham homes.

NPR's Rachel Martin has been covering all these developments and joins us once again.

And, Rachel, what do we know about the bombing suspects arrested and who this person is?

RACHEL MARTIN reporting:

Hi, Steve. Yes. The identity of one of the men who was arrested today comes from security services who told Sky News and the BBC that the man is 24-year-old Yasin Hassan Omar. Armed officers from the Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist branch, MI5--That's the domestic security agency--and the local West Midlands police arrested him this morning after they raided an address in Birmingham, which is about a hundred miles northwest of London. Omar was detained in the Hay Mills area. Local residents there say the raid happened around 4:30 AM this morning. Roads were sealed off and a police helicopter hovered overhead.

There are reports that when police raided the home they found Omar wearing a backpack that's similar to those used to transport the bombs in the attacks on London last Thursday. Apparently Hassan Omar resisted arrest and police used a TASER to detain him. Local residents say they heard police shouting, `Hassan, Hassan,' and apparently the arresting officers were so concerned about this backpack that they threw it out a window. We know that about a hundred homes in the area were evacuated this morning, and forensic experts are still examining the scene. Authorities transported Omar to a central London police station, probably Paddington Green; that's where terrorist suspects are usually interviewed.

INSKEEP: How much is known about the suspect?

MARTIN: Omar was named by the police for allegedly carrying out the attempted bombing at Warren Street Tube station last Thursday. He came to Great Britain when he was about 12 with his family, who were Somali refugees. We know that he and the other named suspect, 27-year-old Muktar Said Ibrahim, have been living as legal residents of Britain for the past 10 years. Omar was the man who police say had been living in an apartment that they raided on Monday in north London. He reportedly has been living there since about 1999. Neighbors in that apartment complex identified Omar and said they saw him at the building last Friday, the day after the second wave of bombings.

Neighbors say there were people coming and going from the apartment at all hours of the day and night, and they said that Said Ibrahim was often there as well. At one point there were appar...

INSKEEP: Ibrahim is the other man who's been named in connection with the attempted bombings a few days ago.

MARTIN: Correct. Correct. Twenty-seven-year-old Muktar Said Ibrahim is the second named suspect. At one point, there were apparently 50 cardboard boxes that were delivered to this apartment, and when neighbors asked what was in them, they were told it was paint stripper. Police are still scouring this apartment for evidence that could lead them to the other suspected bombers.

INSKEEP: And we should emphasize, this is one of several arrests that police made today. And, Rachel Martin, how to these arrests fit in with the overall investigation?

MARTIN: Yes. It's worth noting that police also arrested three other people in Birmingham who are being held by police in Birmingham, have not been transported to central London. These arrests, particularly the arrest of Omar, could have major implications in this investigation, could be hailed as a significant breakthrough. Right now there are a total of nine people in custody, and they're being held under Britain's Terrorism Act. There were the four Birmingham arrests, and five other men have been arrested since last Friday. Those five are being questioned at Paddington Green.

INSKEEP: OK. Rachel, thanks very much.

MARTIN: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Rachel Martin in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.