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Italian Police Traced Phone Calls to London Bomb Suspect
By Michael Drudge
VOA, London
01 August 2005

Italian police say they were able to track down a suspect in last month's attempted terrorist bombings in London because the man made several calls from his cell phone after fleeing Britain.

The chief of Italy's anti-terrorist police, Carlo de Stefano, has given the first detailed account of how Italian police captured one of the four prime suspects in the bungled bombings of London's transport network on July 21.

Mr. De Stefano says the suspect, known as both Hamdi Issac and Osman Hussein, made several calls from his cellular telephone after he fled London by train on July 23. He traveled first through Paris and then northern Italy before arriving at the home of a brother living in Rome.

Mr. De Stefano says London police provided a key clue that led to the arrest.

"His identification was further confirmed due to a small wound he had on his right foot," he said. "This information was given to us by the Metropolitan Police in Britain. This wound was sustained as he tried to escape from the scene in London."

Police experts are expressing astonishment that someone under such an intense manhunt would make traceable phone calls, as former Scotland Yard commander John O'Conner explained on British television.

"This just shows how basically amateurish this particular terrorist was," he explained. "I mean you don't expect any of the hard terrorists to be using mobile phones like that, or certainly mobile phones that can come back to them."

Italian authorities say they are virtually certain that Hamdi Issac is not connected to a larger terrorist conspiracy, a finding that could speed up his extradition to Britain.

London police continue to question three other prime suspects in the July 21 incidents, in which bombs that failed to fully detonate were placed on three subway trains and a bus.

There are concerns other undetected terrorist cells could be plotting new attacks.

A terrorism analyst at London's Center for Defense and International Security Studies, Mark Baillie, compares the extent of Britain's Islamic terrorist network with that of the Irish Republican Army.

"There are definitely other cells active in Britain," said Mr. Baillie. "The amount of activists and sympathizers for the jihadi extremists in the United Kingdom is at least as high as it was for the IRA's 30-year-long campaign. A few hundred activists and 10, 12, 16,000 supporters. That's quite enough."

Meanwhile, London police maintain the high alert that began on July 7 when a team of four British Muslim suicide bombers blew up themselves and 52 passengers on London's transport system.