LEEDS, England – British Muslims in several areas said Friday they felt profound shock watching a video of a London homicide bomber seeking to justify the carnage — erasing any doubt a homegrown cell carried out the July 7 attack and that its members were inspired by Al Qaeda (search).
For one of his friends, the sight of purported ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan — speaking in a Yorkshire accent and wearing a red-and-white keffiyeh in the farewell message broadcast on al-Jazeera (search) — verged on the surreal.
"We were all shocked and horrified when we saw the video itself," Irshad Hussain said in this gritty northern city where Khan grew up. "We are just devastated for what we had just heard and what we had seen on TV. ... I couldn't believe it was actually him talking on the screen."
Khan's farewell message was broadcast Thursday alongside a video of Al Qaeda No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri (search), warning of more attacks.
Labour Party (search) lawmaker Shahid Malik (search) — a Muslim who represents the Dewsbury neighborhood in West Yorkshire (search) where Khan had lived since February — told the BBC that the tape would put to rest rumors that he and the three other bombers were somehow set up.
"There is a hardcore rump within the British Muslim community that didn't actually believe somehow that Sidique and his cohorts were responsible," Malik said. "Rampant conspiracy theories mushroomed out of control."
Khan was born in Pakistan but was raised in the Beeston (search) section of Leeds. His wife and 8-month-old daughter have been in hiding since the bombings, and their Dewsbury home remained boarded up Friday.
Malik said he had been in touch with the family.
"They are very, very distressed, living in fear, not knowing what is going on," Malik said. "In a perverse way this will offer some kind of closure for this family. It is very difficult for them to believe.
But in Beeston, a multiethnic neighborhood dotted with Halal butcher shops, Caribbean grocers and fish-and-chip take-out restaurants, longtime resident Harir Fhad Hussain said he feared the video would reopen community wounds.
"This is their nastiness, their way of opening up the wound again," he said.
In London, Gous Ali, a Muslim whose girlfriend was killed in the attack on a double-decker bus, expressed outrage at the sight of a British Muslim praising Al Qaeda.
"I was born and brought up here, and I would never in a million years align myself to these views," Ali said.
Although authorities had yet to confirm publicly that the bearded man in the video was Khan, Harir Fhad Hussain said he definitely recognized the 30-year-old youth leader who had worked with disabled children and appeared to spend much of his time at the gym.
Khan and al-Zawahri did not appear together on the recording, but analysts said it provided the strongest link yet between the terrorist network and the four London bombers, whose attacks on three subway trains and the bus killed 56 people including themselves.
"It does confirm that Al Qaeda managed to penetrate some support of Muslim extremists in this country. They managed to recruit them and actually use them in this kind of atrocity," said Abdel Bari-Atwan, editor of the London-based Arabic daily newspaper Al Quds (search).
Chris Shoemaker, a former Scotland Yard (search) counterterrorism expert, said the video was evidence that the July 7 bombings were designed to be a suicide operation and that Al Qaeda inspired the attackers.
"It also confirmed that Khan was the leader of this group and took a key role in the recruitment and training," he said.
Up to now, the predominant image of Khan portrayed in the media had centered on a photograph of a soft-eyed teaching assistant. The photo was taken for a newspaper's educational supplement before the bombings and was widely reprinted after the attacks.
Now, the public will likely remember Khan in a dark suit and the keffiyeh calling Al Qaeda leaders his heroes.
"Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate injustice against my people all over the world, and your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters," Khan said, looking into the camera.
He also said Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) "not only disregards the millions of people in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he does not care about you as he sends you to the inferno in Iraq and exposes you to death in your land because of his crusader war against Islam."
Azzam Tamimi of the Muslim Association of Britain (search) said the tape, if genuine, confirmed a link between anger over Iraq and the London bombings.
"The involvement of Britain in the war in Iraq has provided Usama bin Laden with extra ammunition to recruit these young Britons and brainwash them," Tamimi said.
It wasn't clear when or where the video was made.
"We are waiting for a police assessment of the video, which of course I have seen," Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (search) said. "There is no excuse, no justification for terrorism of any kind, and it happens that those who, entirely wrongly, claim to speak in the name of Islam are mainly killing their fellow Muslims."
Michael Whine, of the Community Security Trust (search), said the tape's release nearly two months after the bombings was designed to sow more fear.
"This is part of the group's modus operandi," he said. "It's designed to frighten people."