PESHAWAR, July 8: Investigators are questioning here a British national with known links to Al Qaeda and militants in the UK who they suspect may provide lead to Thursday’s London blasts, sources said. Zeeshan Siddique, who was picked up by a security agency from near Peshawar in May, had initially identified himself as Shehzad from Madina Colony, Hyderabad. The identity turned out to be fake.
In subsequent interrogation, he said he was a British national and that he was suspected of involvement in a failed plot to bomb pubs, restaurants and rail stations in London.
Mr Siddique, 25, from Heston Hounslow, Theville, London, has revealed little as, according to investigators, he works himself into a fit to avoid interrogation but what he did say prompted the security agency to dig deeper into his past, an official investigating the case told Dawn.
Investigators are focusing on a note in which Mr Siddique states that one of his comrades was unwilling to proceed further while another had informed him that ‘wagon’ had now been called off.
The reference to ‘wagon’ has prompted security officials to take a fresh look at the whole case with particular reference to the bombings in London that has left scores of people dead and hundreds others wounded.
“It is still premature to say anything. But we believe that the guy is holding back a lot of information,” said one investigator.
During the course of initial interrogation, the suspect had blamed Muhammad Junaid Babar and Omar Khayyam for falsely implicating him in the foiled bombing plot in London.
Junaid Babar, 30, a naturalised Pakistani-American from Queensborough, New York, was arrested by the NYPD/FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force in April 2004 while he was on way to a taxi driving school in Long Island.
Babar, who had reportedly first caught the attention of the FBI after his anti-US interview to a Western television channel in Pakistan following the 9/11 attacks, had admitted before a federal judge in New York of being an Al Qaeda sleeper in the United States. He also owned up to smuggling money and military supplies to a senior Al Qaeda member in Pakistan, setting up a Jihad camp in South Waziristan and assisting in a bombing plot in the United Kingdom.
Officials said that Babar had not only admitted to having visited Shakai, hitherto a bastion of militants in South Waziristan, but also having met Zeeshan Siddique there.
Babar, who had left a $70,000 a year computer job to take part in the ‘Jihad’ in Afghanistan, and was said to be cooperating with US investigators, had identified Mr Siddique as one of the people involved in the bombing plot, investigators said.
It was following the arrest of Mr Babar and his disclosure about the bombing plot that the British security agencies, tipped off by their American counterparts, arrested eight British Muslims of Pakistani origin in a major swoop in March 2004.
The raids code-named ‘Operation Crevice’ led to the recovery of more than half a ton of ammonium nitrate, the type of fertilizer used in home-made bombs and five of the eight arrested were charged with terrorist offences. Among them was the 23-year-old Omar Khayam whom Siddique has accused of falsely implicating him in the failed bombing plot.
It is not clear whether like Muhammad Junaid Babar and the five other accused in the UK, Siddique too belonged to Al Muhajiroun - a radical Muslim group in the UK led by Omar Barkri Muhammad.
But interrogators say they have evidence that contact numbers recovered from Siddique clearly link him to Al Qaeda operatives and those associated with ‘Operation Crevice’.
The suspect is believed to have met at least one senior Al Qaeda operative, Hadi Al-Iraqi, in Shakai in South Waziristan before the Pakistan Army moved in to dismantle what it later said served as a base for Al Qaeda.
Al-Muhajiroun had in the past denied any relationship with Junaid Babar or engaging in any military operation in Western countries.
Siddique who claimed to have done a BSC in Economics from a university in London, told interrogators he had met Junaid in a UK mosque and later met him again in Lahore where he stayed with him for over two months.
Investigators have recovered a CD from the suspect’s possession that had programmes regarding circuit works, aeronautical mapping and digital simulation.
The arrest of Junaid Babar was followed by arrests of Salahuddin Amin alias Gullu and Abu Munthar Al-Maghribi in Pakistan and Issa Al Hindi in the UK. Amin was arrested on his return to UK in February 2005.
A letter recovered from Siddique spoke of the arrest of Abu Munthar. “The brother he went with appears to have been arrested and we suggest that you cut off all contacts,” the official said, quoting from the letter.
Official sources said that the US and British security agencies were taking keen interest in Siddique and appear to have a great deal of information about him. Lately, they say, the British have been requesting for his immediate deportation.
Up to now, Siddique has been successfully thwarting interrogation by working himself into fits, thereby denying any opportunity to his interrogators to speak to him. But officials say he may be the missing link in the whole plot.