British Suspect Denies U.S. Terror Camp Link
LONDON – Three suspects in the failed July 21 London bombings were formally charged Monday with attempted murder, as a British citizen wanted in the United States for allegedly trying to set up a terrorist training camp said he would fight extradition.
The court hearings took place amid tight security at Belmarsh prison in southeast London. Dozens of heavily armed officers stood guard outside the court, and a police helicopter hovered overhead.
The suspects, most dressed in standard prison navy sweat shirts and gray sweat pants, were led from their cells through an underground tunnel into the adjacent court building for separate hearings. They sat behind a thick, glass screen, flanked by officers wearing stab-proof vests.
Muktar Said Ibrahim (search), 27, Ramzi Mohammed (search), 23, and Yassin Hassan Omar (search), 24, were ordered to remain in custody until Nov. 14 on charges of attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, possessing or making explosives and conspiracy to use explosives on July 21. They face life in prison if convicted.
The fourth main suspected attacker, known both as Osman Hussain and as Hamdi Issac, was arrested in Rome and is being held there on international terrorism charges. British authorities are seeking his extradition.
Haroon Rashid Aswat (search), 30, who was deported from Zambia on Sunday and arrested by British police under a U.S. warrant, appeared Monday in the same courtroom. U.S. authorities accuse him of conspiring to set up a camp in Bly, Ore., in 1999-2000 to provide training in weapons, hand-to-hand combat and martial arts for Islamic militants aiming to fight in Afghanistan.
Aswat had expertise in combat training and remained at the camp in Bly for a month at the end of 1999, said the U.S. government complaint, filed June 20 in federal court in New York and unsealed Monday.
Aswat's lawyer, Hossein Zahir, said his client was "baffled" by the charges and would challenge the extradition. "He wishes to stress that he has nothing to hide," Zahir told the court. "He denies any suggestion that he's a terrorist or engaged in any terrorist activity."
Aswat, who appeared in court wearing a black robe over a light brown shirt, spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and to say he would contest extradition. Senior District Judge Timothy Workman ordered that he be held until a hearing Thursday.
According to several newspaper reports, Aswat spoke by telephone with some of the four July 7 attackers, who triggered bombs on three Underground trains and a London bus, killing 52 commuters and themselves.
But Scotland Yard police headquarters said Monday that detectives were not interested in speaking to Aswat about the London attacks.
Police believe they have all the July 21 attackers in custody. No one has been charged in the July 7 attacks.
Ibrahim was accused of trying to detonate a bomb on a bus in east London. Mohammed is suspected of attempting to bomb the Oval station subway train, while Omar allegedly targeted an Underground train near Warren Street station. The men spoke Monday only to confirm their names and did not indicate how they would plead to the charges.
Another man, Manfo Kwaku Asiedu, 32, also appeared in court charged with conspiracy to murder, apparently over a bomb in a backpack found July 23 near a park in northwest London. Asiedu appeared in the dock with an interpreter who spoke the Ghanayan dialect Twi. Workman ordered him to remain in custody until Nov. 14.
Three other men appeared in court Monday in connection with the July 21 bombing case. Police have charged Siraj Yassin Abdullah Ali, 30, Wharbi Mohammed, 22, and Asias Girma, 20, with withholding information that could have helped detectives investigating the attacks and with helping suspects evade arrest.
Workman ordered them held until a further hearing Thursday. They indicated they would plead not guilty to the charges.
Six people appeared in court last week charged with failing to disclose information about the whereabouts of Hamdi Issac and were ordered to remain in custody until further hearings. They included Issac's wife and sister-in-law.