Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Terrorist bombings in Madrid and Istanbul and the discovery of a wider conspiracy in the London blasts are raising fears of another round of bombings, U.S. officials said yesterday.

“We’re waiting for the other shoe to drop,” one official said.

British investigators are still piecing together the facts related to the July 7 blasts in London that killed at least 52 persons and injured more than 700 and are searching for at least one terrorist linked to the attacks.

U.S. officials said the London attacks are now thought to be linked to the al Qaeda bombings in Madrid last year and two bombings in Istanbul in 2003.

British police suspect the London bombings were carried out by Islamic suicide bombers. The Istanbul blasts were carried out by suicide bombers who used trucks filled with explosives to attack two synagogues, a bank and the British Consulate.

After the March 11, 2004, Madrid train bombings, investigators quickly discovered a second group of bombers who were planning a follow-up attack. They blew themselves up to avoid capture. A cell phone-triggered bomb that failed to detonate helped investigators track down the group.

“We don’t have all the details, but the potential for a second wave of attacks is there,” said a second U.S. official, referring to the London attacks.

U.S. transportation systems continue to be on a heightened security alert as a result of the London bombings.

A major manhunt is under way in Europe and other parts of the world for a man identified by the British as the fifth involved in the attacks. Four other British-born men of Pakistani origin, who died in the blasts, were identified as the bombers, but officials declined to dub them “suicide bombers.”

A joint threat assessment produced by the Department of Homeland Security for the January presidential inaugural stated that al Qaeda has succeeded in using suicide attacks since September 11.

The report said al Qaeda is “increasingly morphing into a decentralized network of ideological, human, and financial resources.”

“Al Qaeda attracts Muslim extremists among many nationalities and ethnicities, including North Africans, Europeans, South Asians, and other non-Arabs as well as recruiting young Muslim converts of any nationality inside target countries,” the report said.

In the Washington area, the report noted, “there is a loose network of individuals, who are, at the very least, sympathetic to Sunni extremism.”

The extremist activities appear limited to training, fundraising and facilitating overseas work, but the report warned that “this presence could give the Sunni extremist movement a potential operational capability in the region.”

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