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WORLD

Who and why

Neighbors of suspected bomber seek answers

By Henry Schuster
CNN

Editor's Note: Henry Schuster, a senior producer in CNN's Investigative Unit and author of "Hunting Eric Rudolph," has been covering terrorism for more than a decade. Each week in "Tracking Terror," he reports on people and organizations driving international and domestic terrorism and efforts to combat those.

UK papers
British papers identified three of the suspected bombers, including Tanweer.

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LEEDS, England (CNN) -- We are standing outside a police cordon on Colwyn Road in Leeds, trying to make sense of it all. And we're not the only ones.

Just up the road, on the left, is the home of Shehzad Tanweer, the oldest son in a British Pakistani family.

He was 22, a cricket player, a good student and a devout Muslim. But now, unbelievably to his neighbors, police think Tanweer was one of the suicide bombers in last Thursday's deadly terror attacks in London.

It is almost 2 in the morning, a balmy night in northern England. On the other side of the police tape, a couple of constables keep an eye on the house and on us.

As we gear up for a live shot, two young men walk up to my colleague Nic Robertson and me.

In their distinctive Leeds accents, they tell us they knew Tanweer. They played soccer -- or football, as it's called here -- with him. They are 20-something Muslims, like the suspected bomber, and are fully assimilated into English society. They recall seeing Tanweer working at his father's nearby fish and chips shop.

And, like us, they cannot figure out why one of their own might have murdered innocent civilians.

What might have driven someone like Shehzad Tanweer -- a suspect along with at least three others, according to authorities -- to kill himself and scores of others?

'Why not me?'

We hear this question continually from family and friends of Tanweer's in this ethnically mixed neighborhood. We hear it from students, from religious and community leaders and others who gathered for two minutes of silence in Leeds' Millennium Square on Thursday -- a week after the four murderous blasts 175 miles to the south.

None of them can understand. These were good boys, they say.

One young man asks: "Why him? Why not me? I've gone to the same schools, gone to the same mosque, done the same things." He and others don't speak with anger -- but rather incomprehension, confounded by the investigation unfolding in their hometown.

The reality of the investigation seems everywhere in Leeds, from the police tape to the swarms of authorities.

Soon after the Millennium Square observance, another part of town is evacuated. Buses are brought in, people are moved out. The search is on again, apparently this time for explosives.

In the coming days and weeks, police work should reveal more about how these young suspects met, how they might have got their hands on explosives and how they possibly carried out the attacks.

"We need to establish a number of things: Who actually committed the attack? Who supported them? Who financed them? Who trained them? Who encouraged them?" Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist branch, said at a news conference Thursday.

But for the people in Leeds, what really matters is why.

One Islamic group's perspective

The attitude in Leeds is strikingly different from what we encountered in London a few nights earlier. We attended a gathering of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an international group named in a British government report as the largest Muslim extremist organization in the country.

The discussion at the London meeting revolved around how to respond to the blasts. The message from Hizb-ut-Tahrir's leaders: Condemn the attacks, but make sure to mention the deaths of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hands of U.S. and British troops.

Qasim Khawaja -- a 32-year-old Oxford graduate, computer technician and leader of Hizb-ut-Tahrir -- tells the crowd that the West is waging a war against Islam.

Later, talking with CNN, Khawaja acknowledges that he fits the profile of an extremist, citing this excerpt from a British government report:

start quoteWhy him? Why not me? I've gone to the same schools, gone to the same mosque, done the same things.end quote
-- Peer of suspected bomber Shehzad Tanweer

"Most young extremists fall into one of two groups: well-educated undergraduates, or with degrees and technical professional qualifications in engineering or IT; or under-achievers with few or no qualifications, and often a criminal background."

But he insists that he and his colleagues are not extremists. Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Khawaja explains, wants to see the restoration of a caliphate -- an Islamic state -- across the Muslim world. Just how Great Britain and other Western countries figure into this plan is unclear, but Khawaja says that his group does not advocate violence.

He also says he believes British or U.S. authorities could have been behind the London bombings. He believes there is no proof Osama bin Laden played any real role in the September 11, 2001 attacks -- even though bin Laden has claimed responsibility for them.

Not alone?

A belief common among Leeds residents is that whatever the motivation behind the suicide attacks, the young suspects must have been steered by someone else -- some malign mastermind -- to carry them out.

Back in our live video spot, the two young men who talked to us the previous night return around 3 a.m., after an evening of playing soccer.

Tanweer, again, dominates the conservation.

They remember a crucial soccer match the previous week. The night before, they'd tried to ring Tanweer to make sure he was going to be there on Wednesday.

They never got an answer from him.

A day later, Tanweer was dead -- killed in the London terrorist attacks. And they, like many others, are still looking for answers.

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