Sat, Jul 30, 2005 - Page 7 News List

London police raid apartment

STANDOFF Authorities swooped down on a block in Notting Hill, as heavily armed officers surrounded a house where a suspected Islamic militant was hiding


Police raided an apartment block yesterday in west London's Notting Hill area seeking suspects in the July 21 failed bombings against the capital's transit system.

They were involved in at least one stand-off with a man in an apartment, pointing assault weapons and pistols at the home, a witness said. Police wearing black balaclavas and body armor surrounded the building.

"They're asking him to leave the flat. They've been saying this for 25 minutes to half an hour. by the looks they're getting a little fed up," said one witness identified by Sky News television as Lisa Davis.

She added that "it will be very hard for them to get in. Unless he cooperates it will get ugly."

The raid took place near Portobello Road, in the chic Notting Hill neighborhood that is famous for its weekend street market. Helicopters buzzed overhead and police cordoned off a number of streets.

"We can confirm that an armed operation is currently in progress" with regard to July 21, London's Metropolitan Police said. "This operation is in its very early stages. Cordons are in place as a precaution."

Witnesses said they heard at least one large explosion and said heavily armed police were seen in the area, some wearing gas masks while others were in forensic suits.

Meanwhile, British officials were Friday seeking to establish whether the mastermind behind the July 7 suicide blasts has been arrested in Zambia, as police in London quizzed one of the men suspected of attempting to launch a repeat attack a fortnight later.

British police have refused to confirm US reports that Haroon Rashid Aswat, a Briton of Pakistani origin previously named as the suspected planner of the attacks in which 52 people and four bombers died, had been captured in Zambia.

However, British embassy officials were seeking consular access to a British national reportedly arrested, while a Zambian intelligence official confirmed that someone was being held "in connection with terrorist activities."

On Friday, the London Underground reopened the Edgeware Road station, the second of three stations hit by the blasts on July 7 to return to use. King's Cross, where most of the deaths occurred, remained closed.

"Everyone was being incredibly vigilant on the train, checking each other's bags," said passenger Jasmine Chandhoke, 22, from Hounslow, west London.

Exactly two weeks after the July 7 blasts ripped through three London Underground subway trains and a bus, a near-identical repeat attack was carried out but failed to cause injury after the bombs seemingly failed to go off.

Four suspected would-be suicide bombers abandoned their rucksack-carried devices and were pictured by security cameras fleeing, sparking perhaps the biggest manhunt Britain has ever seen.

"We are in a somber moment and it does remain possible that those at large will strike again," the head of London's Metropolitan Police Ian Blair warned on Thursday.

The day before, police in the central England city of Birmingham had detained one of the suspected attackers, Somali-born Yasin Hassan Omar, who was subdued with a stun gun as police raided his hideout.

The 24-year-old is suspected of trying to blow up an Underground train near central London's Warren Street train station.

Police hope Hassan Omar, who they have 14 days to question at London's high-security Paddington Green police station, will provide crucial information about the twin terrorist attacks, although a report Friday said progress had thus far been tough.

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