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Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Out-of-Towners 

Our distinguished colleague Max Blumenthal speculates that the London bombings were carried out by what the NYT calls "a sleeper cell of homegrown extremists rather than highly trained terrorists exported to Britain"; he dismisses suggestions by the Pentagon and/or the State Dept. that al-Zarqawi was somehow involved. Juan Cole agrees on the latter point, but takes issue with the former:
CNN ran a piece Saturday in the US with Peter Bergen, speculating on the "chilling" possibility that the bombers were Muslim British subjects with UK passports. I have to say that I was outraged and appalled by this piece of potentially destructive speculation.

First, we still have no idea who did this. It is very likely the "Qaeda al-Jihad in Europe" group that claimed responsibility immediately. Their statement appeared very quickly after the bombings and yet had none of the appearance of being rushed. That suggests it was carefully composed before the fact. The rumors that the statement has errors in the Arabic or the Quran citation are absolutely incorrect, and al-Sharq al-Awsat came to the same conclusion in its Saturday edition.

The statement was in Arabic. The instances of British Muslim participation in terrorism given in the CNN piece were all non-Arabs: Richard Reid and several South Asian British, all of whom undertook operations abroad rather than in the UK. None of them probably even knew Arabic well or could compose a statement in it. Britain's South Asian Muslim community is almost certainly not the origin of this attack. The statement celebrated Arabness or `urubah along with Islam. No Bangladeshi-Briton or Pakistani-Briton wrote that.

The statement was probably not written by a second-generation Arab Briton or even by a long-term, integrated Arab Briton resident . . . .

My guess is that the author of the statement is Egyptian or Sudanese, with some sort of intellectual genealogy in the radical fringes of the Muslim Brotherhood, perhaps al-Zawahiri's al-Jihad al-Islami.

Of course, all of this is premised on the statement being a guide to the perpetrators, which we cannot know for sure. But everything else above follows pretty tightly if it is.
According to the latest AP coverage, the explosive devices were considerably more sophisticated than initial reports indicated, and the tube blasts took place more or less simultaneously. This new information, if accurate, would appear to resolve some of the questions surrounding the mysterious warning received by Israeli finance minister Benyamin Netanyahu. For further details visit our esteemed colleagues Handy Fuse at Simply Appalling and Michael Hawkins at Spontaneous Arising.

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