Local News

Egyptian Authorities Arrest Former N.C. State Student Wanted In London Probe

Posted July 15, 2005 5:05 a.m. EDT

— Police in Egypt on Friday arrested an Egyptian biochemist that studied at North Carolina State University as authorities investigated a possible link between al-Qaida and the suicide team that carried out the London bombings, officials said.

Magdy el-Nashar, 33, was arrested early Friday, the Egyptian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because an official announcement of the information had not yet been made. El-Nashar, who studied at N.C. State for one semester before transferring to a university in Great Britain, was being interrogated by Egyptian authorities, the official said.

Metropolitan Police in London said a man has been arrested in Cairo, but they would not confirm his name or characterize him as a suspect.

El-Nashar reportedly denied any connection to the London bombings, but investigators believe he has information. News reports out of the United Kingdom say El-Nashar may have helped build the explosives used in last week's subway and bus bombings.

British and FBI officials were looking for el-Nashar, who recently had been teaching chemistry at Leeds University, north of London. The Times of London said el-Nashar was thought to have rented one of the homes police searched in Leeds in a series of raids Tuesday. Neighbors reported el-Nashar recently left Britain, saying he had a visa problem, the newspaper said.

Leeds University said el-Nashar arrived in October 2000 to do biochemical research, sponsored by the National Research Center in Cairo, Egypt. It said he earned a doctorate on May 6.

FBI agents in Raleigh had joined the search for el-Nashar. N.C. State spokesman Keith Nichols said a person named el-Nashar studied at the university as a graduate student in chemical engineering for a semester beginning in January 2000 until the spring.

"We're aware of an arrest in Cairo, but we are not prepared to discuss who we may or may not wish to interview in connection with this investigation," London's Metropolitan Police said in a statement. "This remains a fast-moving investigation with a number of lines of inquiry, some of which may have an international dimension."

Earlier, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said investigators were hunting the organizers of the London transit attacks -- perpetrated by what he called "foot soldiers" -- and confirmed police were focusing on a Pakistan connection.

Three of the bombers who carried out last week's terror strikes were Britons of Pakistani origin. Pakistani intelligence officials said Friday that local authorities are looking into a connection between one of the three and two al-Qaida-linked militant groups in that country.

Blair told British Broadcasting Corp. radio that police believed they would discover an al-Qaida connection to the blasts that killed at least 54 people.

"What we expect to find at some stage is that there is a clear al-Qaida link, a clear al-Qaida approach, because the four men who are dead, who we believe are the bombers, are in the category of foot soldiers," Blair said.

Authorities in Pakistan were looking into a connection between one of the London suicide bombers and two al-Qaida-linked militant groups in Pakistan, including a man arrested for a 2002 attack on a church near the U.S. Embassy, two senior intelligence officials said.

The investigation is focusing on at least one trip that 22-year-old Shahzad Tanweer made to Pakistan in the past year, said the officials, who work at two separate intelligence agencies and are involved in the investigation. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the secretive nature of their jobs. One of the officials said that while in Pakistan, Tanweer is believed to have visited a radical religious school run by the banned Sunni Muslim militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.

The sprawling school in Muridke, 20 miles north of the eastern city of Lahore, has a reputation for hostility. Journalists who have traveled to the school in the past have been threatened and prevented from entering. Lashkar-e-Tayyaba was banned by Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf for alleged links to a 2001 attack on India's Parliament.

ABC News, citing unidentified officials, reported that the attacks were connected to an al-Qaida plot planned two years ago in Lahore, Pakistan. Names on a computer that authorities seized last year from Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, an alleged Pakistani computer expert for al-Qaida, matched a suspected cell of young Britons of Pakistani origin, most of whom lived near Luton, where the alleged suicide bombers met up on their way to London shortly before last week's blasts, according to the report.

Authorities have now discovered ties between Mohammed Sidique Khan -- one of the July 7 bombers -- and members of that cell who were arrested last year, ABC said. In another international development in the inquiry, Jamaica's government said it was investigating a Jamaican-born Briton as one of the bombers.

At a news conference Thursday, police released closed-circuit TV video showing one of the four suicide bombers -- 18-year-old Hasib Hussain -- wearing a backpack as he passed through Luton train station north of London on his way to the capital.

Hussain allegedly set off the bomb that killed 14 people aboard the bus. That blast occurred nearly an hour after three London Underground trains blew up, and investigators don't yet know what Hussain did during that hour or when he boarded the bus.

Trying to map out Hussain's movements, police appealed for information from anyone who may have seen him in or around King's Cross station, where the four parted ways. They released a closed-circuit television image showing him wearing a large camping-style backpack as he strode through a train station in Luton.

The men traveled together from Luton to King's Cross just before the blasts, police said.

Police officially identified two of the suicide bombers Thursday -- Hussain and Tanweer, whom they say attacked a subway train between Liverpool Street and Aldgate stations.

Both were Britons of Pakistani ancestry, as was 30-year-old Mohammed Sidique Khan. Reports say the fourth attacker was Jamaican-born Briton Lindsey Germaine. Jamaican Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Wilton Dyer said officials were waiting for Britain to confirm the identity of the suspect before they could help in identifying his possible origins in Jamaica.