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3 Bombers Visited Pakistan, Land of Their Roots, in 2004

3 Bombers Visited Pakistan, Land of Their Roots, in 2004

Author: Somini Sengupta
Publication: The New York Times
Date: July 19, 2005

Pakistani government officials reported Monday that three of the four men identified as the London bombers visited this country last year. Two of them arrived together and stayed for three months.

A private Pakistani television station broadcast images of two of the men, Shehzad Tanweer and Mohammad Sidique Khan, arriving at the Karachi airport in November 2004, and leaving in February 2005. The third, Hasib Mir Hussain, arrived in July 2004. Two Pakistani officials confirmed that the television images were accurate, but refused to be identified because the investigation was still under way.

The disclosure that three of the men Scotland Yard has identified as bombers visited Pakistan provided the strongest indication yet of a Pakistani connection to the London bombings.

Still, it was not clear what the men did during their visits. Intelligence officials want to know whether they were in contact with Islamic militant groups or known associates of Al Qaeda, or whether the men met with someone who helped plan or finance the bombings.

Over the weekend, leaders of two radical Islamic seminaries that have been linked to extremist groups in Pakistan denied that the men had studied there, or that their schools were promoting terrorism. The police in Islamabad searched a half dozen seminaries, known as madrasas, in the area.

Pakistani officials would not say where the three men traveled inside Pakistan, nor with whom they met. The men, all British citizens of Pakistani descent, were among the 56 killed in the July 7 attack.

President Pervez Musharraf, speaking to a youth convention here in the capital on Monday, accused some madrasas of teaching "extremism and terrorism." Mr. Musharraf's government has come under criticism for failing to carry out its earlier pledge to control the religious schools, which have flourished in Pakistan since the 1980's, largely catering to the poorest Pakistani children and to refugees from Afghanistan.

Government officials continued to deny that arrests had been made in connection with the London bombings. But on condition that their names not be disclosed, other officials said several people were being questioned by the authorities, though no one had been formally charged with any crimes in connection with the bombings.

Sajjad Ahmed was among those picked up by the authorities in a destitute part of Faisalabad, the central Pakistani town from which Mr. Tanweer's family had emigrated.

Last Tuesday night, more than two dozen men, all but three of them wearing black T-shirts and black pants, stormed the second-floor room in which Mr. Ahmed and his wife, Farhat Sajjad, slept, Ms. Sajjad said.

The men put a gun to her head, instructed her to stay absolutely quiet or risk being killed, she said, then left with her husband. She said her husband did not have links to any militant groups. He made a living renting out a snooker table in the house. "I don't know why they took my husband away," she said in an interview.

Mr. Ahmed's friend Nazir Ahmed, a textile factory worker, was arrested the same night, neighbors said, also by men dressed in black. Where the men were being held, and under what charge, remained unclear.

Salman Masood contributed reporting from Faisalabad for this article.

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