BIRMINGHAM, England — Police yesterday captured a Somali man believed to have been one of four fugitive bombers but extended their dragnet for the others to Continental Europe amid signs that some may have escaped Britain aboard an English Channel ferry.
Yasin Hassan Omar, 24, who is believed to have tried to detonate a bomb on a Northern Line subway train last Thursday, was seized before dawn at an apartment in this city north of London.
Police used a stun gun to disable the man and then hurled a backpack out of a window, fearing it may have held an explosive charge.
A search provided evidence that at least two other of the would-be bombers had been hiding in the apartment. A neighbor described seeing the men, dressed in long gowns, carrying bedding into the apartment Saturday night.
Omar, the first bomber to be captured alive after four deadly and four failed bomb attacks in London this month, was undergoing extensive questioning last night at the police’s anti-terrorism headquarters in London.
However, the search for three other East African men who tried unsuccessfully to set off bombs in the transit system on July 21 was extended to Continental Europe following a tip from the girlfriend of one of the suspects.
Channel 4 television interviewed the young woman, whose name was not provided, saying that Muktar Said Ibrahim, an Eritrean, had managed to flee the country aboard a ferry that crossed the English Channel from Dover. He is thought to be in the Netherlands or Belgium, sources said.
Omar, who came to Britain with his family as a refugee in 1992, was captured on closed circuit television as he fled from a subway train after his bomb failed to explode on July 21.
Police last night were raiding addresses in south London — where Omar and three other would-be bombers had boarded trains on their failed missions of destruction.
In Birmingham, more than 100 homes were evacuated as police combed the area for explosives.
Police also revealed that 16 nail bombs had been found three weeks ago in a car that had belonged to one of four bombers who died in the July 7 attacks, which killed another 52 persons.
“The bombs that exploded were normal high-explosives,” said Dr. Irving Taylor, a leading surgeon who performed eight amputations on bomb victims. “If the next round were supposed to be nail bombs, the injuries and deaths would have been far worse.”
British newspapers expressed outrage on their front pages that Ibrahim and Omar had been welcomed to Britain as refugees yet had aimed to commit violence against its citizens.
“Gratitude,” exclaimed the Daily Mail. Its front page carried a picture of a smiling young Ibrahim in a jacket and red tie, captioned: “Their families came here seeking asylum and were given homes, schooling and all the benefits of British life. How do they repay us? By trying to blow us up.”
Ibrahim was revealed to have been “a pot-smoking mugger with a lust for blondes,” the Mail reported.
It was while in a juvenile detention center that he appears to have come under the influence of a visiting Islamic cleric, apparently allowed in by the prison service as a chaplain.
A former friend of Ibrahim, who said his name was Mohamed, said Ibrahim was part of a gang that “would target young white boys” who they would call “posh kids.” He said the gang would wait for “easy targets,” especially people coming out of pubs inebriated.
Ibrahim spent 21/2 years in prison after which he took to reciting the Koran and telling them about a “holy war” predicted by Nostradamus, the Mail quoted friends as saying.
They said his apparent Islamic extremism did not stop him drinking or “shoplifting for beer.”
Members of the Somali community in England, said to number around 30,000, were quick to condemn the bombing attempts. A middle-aged man at a Somali club in Birmingham said: “We hate this kind of thing. … We are a peaceful community.”
Distributed by World News & Features.