7/21 London Bomber Senior Al Queda Operative?

Hussain Osman, a 24-year old Somali must be a senior operative in Al Queda, according to DEBKA.

After an amazing, fast-paced two days in which three of the four suicide bombers who carried out botched attacks on three trains and a bus on July 21 were captured alive -operations in which no one was hurt – Rome chipped in with an equally surprising announcement. Bomber No 4 was in their custody. Britain has asked for his extradition.

The two men rounded up in London after refusing to surrender are Ramzi Mohammed, linked to the attempted bombing at the Oval station and Muktar Said Ibrahim, believed to have tried to blow up a bus in Hackney. Thursday, Yassin Hassan Omar, the would-be Warren St. bomber was tracked down in Birmingham and taken to London.

The wanted man who reached Rome is Hussain Osman, a 24-year old Somali. After failing to blow up a train at Shepherds Bush tube station, he escaped the scene nimbly, dumped his blue shirt while running at full tilt, boarded a bus and ended up on a plane to Italy. In Rome, the Italian police arrested him and the relative who took him in..

DEBKAfile’s counter-terrorist sources naturally wonder how he passed through either of the two London airports, both of which are armed with stringent security measures and reached an outgoing flight undetected.

Scotland Yard officials indicated while still on the run in the UK, Osman had talked by phone to his relative in Rome, implying he was under their eye all the time. Yet it is hard to believe that British security services took the chance of knowingly letting a suicide terrorist travel out of the country – even for the purpose of identifying his contacts. The risk was too great. He might have tried to explode another bomb and killed many people. And they might have lost him. It therefore stands to reason that Osman threw off his pursuers before slipping out of the country and into Italy and fooled the security screens at both ends. His trail was only picked up again when he reached his relative in Rome.

Our counter-terror experts say Osman displayed the escape skills of a highly trained terrorist operative. His ability to pass through borders from country to country places him high up in al Qaeda’s ranks. He must have been senior enough to know about and call on secret logistical back-up in the course of his escape. The organization’s networks must have given him the money to buy tickets and fitted him with forged passports to get out of the UK and into Italy.

It is clear therefore that active terrorist structures are still operational in London and Britain. Scotland Yard spokesmen have indeed warned that the terrorist threat to the country is very much alive.

DEBKAfile’s terrorism experts add: The fact that two of the captured terrorists are of Somali extraction and one is from Eritrea leads directly to al Qaeda’s East African cell and its commander Mohammed Fazul. Fazul is himself an adept escape artist who has eluded capture time after time since he masterminded the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es-Salaam and last year’s strike in Mombasa, Kenya. Fazul’s purview has been extended to northwest Africa, including Mauritania. He is thought now to be working closely with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is senior to him in the organization’s hierarchy.