ISLAMABAD, July 15: One of the alleged London suicide bombers met in 2003 with a man later arrested for a church bombing in Pakistan, an intelligence official said on Friday. Security agencies are investigating possible links between militant groups and Shehzad Tanweer, a Briton of Pakistani origin who is believed to be one of four bombers in the July 7 attack that killed at least 54 people.
One of the groups being checked is Jaish-i-Muhammad, linked to Al Qaeda and banned in 2002. The other group is Lashkar-i-Taiba, which unlike the Jaish is not known to have any operational ties with Al Qaeda.
An intelligence source said Tanweer visited Pakistan in 2003 and 2004. During the first visit, he met Osama Nazir who was arrested last December for the 2002 bombing of a church in Islamabad that killed two Americans among others.
“He met Nazir in a mosque in Faisalabad,” source said. Tanweer’s family comes from Faisalabad.
Nazir was a member of the Jaish and security agents called in Jaish chief Maulana Azhar Masood on Thursday for questioning.
“So far all leads are heading towards the Jaish,” an intelligence official said.
Another intelligence official said Tanweer, 22, had made a second visit to Pakistan in late 2004 and had stayed in Lahore from December until last February, during which he visited several mosques and madaris.
One madressa was in Muridke, on the outskirts of Lahore and home of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a hardline Islamic charity organization made up of cadres of Lashkar-i-Taiba.
“We are looking into whether Tanweer had any links with these people,” another intelligence official said.
But a spokesman for Jamaat-ud-Dawa denied any links with Tanweer and said the group did not condone attacks on civilians.
“He never came to us. It is totally wrong. It is nothing more than a propaganda of the British press,” the spokesman, Yahya Mujahid, told Reuters by telephone from Lahore. “We consider attacks on civilian and public places as unIslamic.”