Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Nearly three years on... 21/7 recalled
Fifteen people have now either pleaded guilty or been convicted in connection with the failed bomb attacks in London on July 21st, 2005. Among the most recent was Yeshi Girma, below, who was sentenced to 15 years after a jury decided she did know her husband was planning to blow up a London underground train.

The jury also found her guilty of helping her husband, Hussain Osman, escape. Osman fled first to Brighton - the CCTV image below captures him at Brighton station - and then to Rome, where he was eventually caught.

Also convicted was Yeshi's younger sister Mulu. She too was found guilty of helping Osman avoid capture. Among the items shown to the jury during their trial was CCTV footage of Mulu buying newspapers in the days immediately after the failed attack. One of them, seen below, bears the headline, “4 Suicide Bombers on the Loose.” The other paper contains an image of Osman; in a bizarre twist, the CCTV captures Mulu scanning the paper for the latest news on the hunt for the man whose whereabouts she is protecting.

The investigation into the botched bombings was the biggest manhunt in the history of the Met police. For journalists working on the story it was also a big operation...following up dramatic CCTV images of the would-be bombers, or news that another address was being searched in another part of the city.

Every new raid needed to be checked out, though it was rarely clear immediately whether or not it represented a major breakthrough. Time spent outside Curtis House, in north London, for instance, proved useful, as it became clear this was probably the bomb factory. By contrast, time spent on Tooting Broadway, in south London, proved to be wasted, as those addresses turned out to be nothing much at all.

Blair House, below, was raided on the Wednesday, six days after the would-be bombers had struck. One of the suspects, Yassin Omar, had been captured earlier that day up in Birmingham, and there was a definite sense that police might be into the end game.

We found Blair House in Stockwell, south London, part of a small estate built, at a guess, after the second world war. There was a blue plastic tarpaulin over number 40 and a cordon in front of that. Police officers were on duty outside.

There was also plenty of residents standing around answering questions from journalists. The story, everyone seemed fairly clear, was that a woman and some children had been led out of the house several hours earlier and driven away.

“Did anybody else live at the house?”

“Possibly a man… hard to be sure… they were friendly but kept themselves to themselves.”

Interesting, up to a point. Then suddenly someone new spoke up.

“He lived there, the man in the picture, the man in the picture on the telly just now, he lived there.”

That was definitely interesting. The picture was a reference to a new image of Hussain Osman, seen below, released just a few hours earlier by the Met.

The image showed Osman on a bus, an hour or so after his bomb had failed to go off. Crucially it was a much better image than the first one released by the Met, which had showed him wearing a baseball cap as he waited, before the attack, for a train.

Unfortunately none of the other people still standing around outside Blair House seemed to have seen the early evening news bulletins. And no one had a copy of the late edition of the Evening Standard newspaper, which had also carried the picture. So there was no one able to corroborate this intriguing development.

What we needed to do was to film the reaction of the other residents as they looked at the new picture of Osman for the first time. So one of the photographers who had decided to stick around was prevailed upon to call her news desk. They sent a jpg file to her email address, which meant the image could be downloaded onto her laptop and shown to the residents.

That’s exactly what happened and we were the only camera team to capture the moment when the residents of Blair House in Stockwell realized they had been living next door to a man who had tried to explode a bomb on the underground.

OK, so it wasn’t quite as dramatic as the images two days later of the other two failed bombers, Muktar Said Ibrahim and Ramzi Mohammed, giving themselves up to police on a brick balcony in west London. But it did give us some unique footage and a good line at the end of another remarkable day.

By Andrew Carey

News and observations on the threats to international security and the challenges posed by terrorism to societies around the world. From breaking news to background stories, from serious analysis to casual asides, if we think it's interesting we'll post it here.
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