Tensions High in Hometown of London Bombers on Attack Anniversary
LEEDS, England – This northern community where suicide bombers hatched the plot for the July 7 London transit bombings was thrust into the spotlight again on Friday, with Muslim leaders speaking out against the violence on the one-year anniversary and residents warning outsiders to leave them alone.
Crowds flocked to this city when word spread a year ago that bombers Shehzad Tanweer, Mohammed Sidique Khan, Hasib Hussain had grown up the area and had met there with Jamaica-born Germaine Lindsay.
On the eve of the bombings' anniversary, the community was scrutinized again when Al-Jazeera broadcast a video of Tanweer who was seen shaking his finger at the camera and warning of other attacks. It was unclear when the video was made.
For many, it was too much.
"We're all British. We live here. It was an individual act," said Habur Habib, who lives in Leeds, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of London.
A sign was posted on the Tanweer house telling outsiders to go away. Another was posted at the Hamara Center where the bombers often met. Dozens of residents said they were tired of feeling demonized and alienated since the attacks that killed 52 commuters and wounded 700.
One photographer from the Getty photo agency had a brick thrown at him. Another reporter was allegedly chased out of town by group of men. At the Hamara Center where the bombers often met, a sign read, "Journalists are not welcome."
While one group hurled obscenities and projectiles at journalists, another stood silently to remember the 52 people killed a year ago on London's transit network. In Beeston, the hometown of three of the four suicide bombers, two minutes of silence was marked by about 50 people at Joseph Priestley College.
On Friday afternoon, Mohammed Iqbal, the Lord Mayor of Leeds, planted a "Tree of Hope" in the park where Tanweer played cricket only hours before leaving for London on a suicide mission.
"There is still shock that some of the perpetrators of the London bombings came from this area and from Leeds but they did not represent this area in any way," Iqbal said during the brief ceremony. "This is vitally important to remember."
At the Hardy Street Mosque, where three of the bombers used the gym in the basement for workouts and religious discussion, the attacks weren't mentioned at all. Imam Mohammed Sajad wouldn't say why, but last month he told The Associated Press that he had no plans to discuss the bombings unless the mosque committee demanded that he did.
Across town at the Leeds Grand Mosque, the attacks were called "atrocious, bad and destructive," during the Friday sermon, and a statement posted on their Web site condemned violence and offered support for the police. But it criticized heavy-handed police tactics and legislation.
"We believe that anti-terror legislation ... only results in more and more youngsters being captured by those who exploit and feed off hopelessness, frustration and desperation," the statement said.
"The London attacks targeted Britain and its people — all its people — and unless we face the challenges they pose together and in unity, we stand to fail."
Sensitivities were heightened by a video, aired on the eve of the anniversary of the attacks by Al-Jazeera, forcing the community to remember the young men who grew up in their town and then traveled south last July bent on destruction. In the video, Shehzad Tanweer warned that other attacks would follow the bombings, saying the assault on London was "only the beginning."
"It's a bit sad they released the video the day before," said Tuhel Miah, a 33-year-old who also lives in Beeston. "It shows there are some people out there trying to maximize divisions and re-ignite the fire that's been burning in some people's hearts."
Miah said it was important to note that the crowd which gathered for Friday's ceremony at the Beeston college was made up of people from all faiths.
"It shows the wider community are very much united and supportive of each other," he said. "We wanted it to show that there is no division or disharmony in the community. ... People are just getting on with their lives."