By Sean ONeill and Daniel McGrory
THE ethnic mix of the eight London bombers, ranging from young
Somalis to Yorkshire-born sons of Pakistani parents and an Anglo-Jamaican
convert, has surprised investigators.
In Madrid, the team were all of North African origin. For September
11, Osama bin Laden chose almost all Saudis. The suicide bombers
in Istanbul, whose targets included the British Consulate, were
all ethnic Kurds, from the same city in southeast Turkey.
Organisers normally prefer to recruit from the same communities,
so that their cells have a common language, a shared cause and
can often be drawn from the same neighbourhoods.
What distinguishes the British cells of suicide bombers is
the striking differences between their family backgrounds,
their upbringings and even their pastimes.
Detectives have been piecing together these eight lives to
determine how their paths crossed. The suspicion is that these
fanatics from north and south met at Finsbury Park mosque.
Mohammad Siddique Khan, 30, the oldest of the Leeds bombers
and the suspected leader of that group, is known to have visited
this North London mosque over recent years. Police are investigating
claims that a second Leeds bomber also spent time there.
The East African-born cell lived not far away in North London,
so this was a regular place of worship.
Other would-be suicide bombers linked to the mosque include
Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a passenger jet in midair,
and Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 19th hijacker from the
It was also a focal point for European and American converts
to Islam, including a number linked to terror cells.
While police are still trying to establish where these eight
men have travelled and whether they attended madrassas or
foreign training camps, the belief is that the first moves
to turn them into jihadis probably happened here.
Properly known as the North London Central Mosque, the five-storey
redbrick building was taken over by a group of Islamist extremists
in the mid-1990s.
Situated close to Arsenal FCs Highbury stadium, it
subsequently became a centre for radical activity and the
commonly associated criminal enterprises of credit card fraud
and identity document forgery. These activities have stopped
since the mosque has come under new leadership.
Not all those attending the mosque, which was built in 1988,
were extremists or terrorist sympathisers. Many members of
the local Muslim community attended it as their nearest place
But the radical takeover made the mosque an immediate draw
for Algerians arriving in London as refugees from bitter conflict
in their homeland. Among those genuinely fleeing the massacres
in Algeria were members of the GIA and GSPC terrorist groups.
For many refugees, Finsbury Park mosque was a place where
they could buy forged or stolen passports and identity documents
that would enable them to find work. It was also a place where
they could buy clothes, which had often been stolen by gangs
Refugees from the conflict in Somalia also gravitated towards
this area of North London and the mosque, which was the focal
point of its Muslim community.
The mosque offered the displaced not only a place to pray
but also a place to sleep. Over the years thousands of people
are thought to have used the basement as a dormitory. Immigration
authorities often wrote to people care of the mosque.
Those who made the mosque the centre of their lives became
prey for the radical preachers and activists. They held regular
prayer groups, study circles and political lectures at which
their brand of fundamentalist Islam was preached in violent,
The Taleban regime in Afghanistan was held up as an example
of how to run an Islamic state and money was raised to send
people and equipment to Kabul.
Youths from the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities went
there, as did a number of black African Muslims and black
British converts to Islam.