Pakistan militants linked to London attacks

· Two bombers travelled together, documents show
· Leader of plot also said to have visited Israel

Two of the London bombers travelled to Pakistan together last November and spent almost three months there, it emerged yesterday, pointing towards close links between the UK extremists and their Pakistani counterparts.

Pakistani officials released dramatic footage showing Mohammad Sidique Khan, 30, the man suspected of leading the London cell, arriving from Britain at Karachi airport on the same Turkish Airlines flight TK 1056 on November 19 last year, as Shehzad Tanweer, 22. The two stayed in Pakistan until February 8 before flying back to London together, immigration officials said.

Another of the July 7 bombers, Hasib Hussain, 18, arrived separately in Karachi on July 15 last year.

Investigators are convinced that Tanweer met at least one senior militant - Osama Nazir - during a previous trip to Pakistan in 2003. They also now believe that one or more of the London bombers, whose attacks on three tube trains and a bus claimed at least 56 lives, met a second militant, Zeeshan Siddiqi. Siddiqi, arrested in Pakistan two months ago, is associated with several radical groups.

Khan, a teaching assistant and respected figure in his Leeds community who is thought to have played a dominant role in the bomb plot, may have introduced Tanweer to contacts in Pakistan's thriving militant scene.

The revelation that three of the four bombers visited Pakistan so recently bolsters the belief that they had overseas militant links.

There were also unconfirmed reports yesterday that Khan, who police believe blew himself up on an underground train at Edgware Road, flew to Israel for 24 hours in 2003, where one Israeli newspaper suggested he may have helped plan a suicide bombing there.

Khan arrived in Israel on February 19, 2003, and left the next day. The Israeli daily newspaper, Maariv, said he was suspected of helping two fellow Britons, both of Pakistani descent, plot a suicide mission at Mike's Place bar in Tel Aviv on April 30, killing three Israelis.

In Pakistan, investigators are now gradually piecing together a clearer picture of Tanweer's and Khan's movements. They stayed at a hotel in Karachi's central Saddar area for a week before leaving for Lahore by train, a Pakistani newspaper, the Daily News, reported yesterday.

Pakistani officials now believe that Tanweer "shopped around", visiting several different radical madrasas. Detectives are also certain he spent time in Faisalabad, two-and-a-half hours' drive from Lahore, and a centre for radical Sunni activists.

"He visited multiple seminaries. He didn't take admission in any of them. He stayed there for a few days and travelled elsewhere. He was establishing contacts with militants," one source close to the Pakistani investigation said.

Computer records show Hasib Hussain entered Karachi from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on July 15, 2004, on flight SV714. It is not clear when he left.

Experts believe that only two Pakistani militant groups would have had the expertise and international resources to assist in an elaborate suicide operation in Britain - the banned Sunni group Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (Army of Mohammad).

Tanweer is believed to have stayed at a madrasa run by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Mudrike, 20 miles outside Lahore. Over the weekend, however, the madrasa denied any connection with him.

The revelations are likely to increase pressure on Pakistan's military president Pervez Musharraf. On Monday Pakistan's ambassador to the UN complained that Pakistan was being blamed for the London attacks, despite the fact that all four bombers were born and grew up in Britain.

Yesterday, though, President Musharraf sounded a more conciliatory note. He admitted that some Pakistani madrasas were connected to "extremism and terrorism" - a point made by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, last week.

Scotland Yard said it had not sent any officers to Pakistan, although they are liaising with the Pakistani authorities.

A Leeds man arrested in the wake of the bombings was still being questioned at Paddington Green high security police station in central London last night.

UK forensic experts are still trying to identify the homemade explosive compound used in the London bombings and the substances found in a "bomb factory" at a Leeds property, and in a hire car abandoned by the bombers at Luton railway station.

A senior security source said: "It will take some time for the forensic investigation to show us exactly what explosives were used and in what way."

Jermaine Lindsay, the King's Cross bomber, spent hundreds of pounds on perfume days before he blew himself up and police are probing whether any of this was included in the bombs. They have also yet to establish how the bombs were detonated.

Detectives are still trying to piece together vital information about the four bombers' movements in the run-up to the attack. They need to work out when three of them, Khan, Tanweer and Hussain, travelled from Leeds to meet the fourth, Lindsay, in Luton, and what route they took.

So far, they have collected more than 12,000 CCTV tapes, of which they have viewed around 6,000. They expect to view around 25,000 in total.

To date, officers have taken just under 1,000 witness statements, seized 3,500 documents and taken more than 3,500 calls on the confidential anti-terrorist hotline, not including mobile phone footage and pictures of the bombings emailed by members of the public.

More than 2,000 police officers have worked on the inquiry so far, of which 500 remain as permanent core staff.


Luke Harding in Lahore and Rosie Cowan

The GuardianTramp

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