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UK police raid homes in preplanned operation

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U.K. Police Raid Homes, Close Station in Bombs Probe (Update1)

July 12 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. police searched six addresses and soldiers carried out a controlled explosion today in northern England in connection with last week's terrorist attacks in London that killed at least 52 people. In Luton, north of London, police closed the rail station and parking lot after finding a vehicle that may be linked to the blasts.

Several arrests were made after the raids in the county of West Yorkshire, and searches were also carried out at sites in London, Sky News cited unidentified police as saying. The raids were part of a ``pre-planned, intelligence-led operation,'' West Yorkshire Police spokeswoman Michelle Flint said. London's Metropolitan Police led the operation, police said.

Bombs exploded on three London Underground subway trains in a coordinated attack during the morning rush hour on July 7. The blasts took place within a 50-second period, and a fourth bomb went off 57 minutes later on one of the capital's red double- decker buses. The attack, claimed by two groups in the name of al- Qaeda, was the deadliest in London since World War II. The bus bomber died in the attack, Sky said, citing police.

The military carried out the controlled explosion to gain access to a house during the sixth West Yorkshire raid, which was still under way in the Burley area of Leeds, Inspector Miles Himsworth of West Yorkshire police said in a briefing aired live by the British Broadcasting Corp. Between 500 and 600 people were evacuated from nearby homes and a mosque, he said. The house was being searched for explosives, police said.


Authorities including the police and London Mayor Ken Livingstone urged Londoners to carry on ``as normal'' in the wake of the attacks, with the mayor taking the subway to work yesterday. The U.S. Air Force today removed a ban on travel to London for its 10,000 service personnel based in the U.K.

In Luton, the station was closed at 2:45 p.m. local time ``on the grounds of public safety so that a car parked there can be recovered,'' Bedfordshire Police said in an e-mailed statement. A 100-meter (328-foot) cordon was put up around the area and rail service to the station was suspended, police said.

``The vehicle may be connected to the terrorist attacks in London on July 7 and will be examined in the car park for safety reasons before being taken away to a secure location,'' police said in the statement. ``Those areas affected by this operation include Luton railway station, the bus station, part of the Luton University campus and a number of privately owned buildings. Nearby roads may also be temporarily closed.''

Police declined to specify the location of the addresses being searched today. Sky News reported the searches were carried out in the greater Leeds area, without saying where it got the information.

Death Toll

Police have put the death toll from the attacks at 52, and say they expect it to rise as they investigate wreckage. About 700 people were wounded, and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday said 56 of those are still hospitalized.

London police today named two more victims of the blasts, and said a total of five have been identified, including a woman whose name was released yesterday. Jamie Gordon and Philip Stuart Russell were both killed in the bus bombing at Tavistock Square, police said in an e-mailed statement. The families of the other two victims requested their names not be made public until after an inquest has been opened, police said.

Crime Scene

The first victim to be formally identified was named yesterday by as Susan Levy, 53, from Cuffley in Hertfordshire. Gladys Wundowa, a cleaner for University College London, was also named as a victim yesterday by her employer. It wasn't clear whether she is included in the police tally of five.

Police are studying ``every square centimeter'' of the wreckage at the four blast sites, the U.K.'s top police officer, Ian Blair, said yesterday at a news conference, describing the locations as ``the biggest crime scene in English history.''

Investigators have also recovered 2,500 closed-circuit television tapes, and have received 2,000 telephone calls on the Anti-Terrorist Hotline, the police chief said.

Ian Blair yesterday said the bombs ``certainly were not homemade,'' and Superintendent Christophe Chaboud, the chief of the French anti-terrorist police, who is assisting British police, said the explosives appear to be ``military,'' the London- based Times newspaper today reported.

Bus Network

London's bus network is disrupted only in areas where police cordons are still in place, according to the Web site of Transport for London (TfL), the capital's public transportation body. The entire Circle Line and parts of the Metropolitan, District, Piccadilly, and Hammersmith and City lines are suspended. Other lines were affected by delays after a security alert today.

London police said on July 8 that the attacks bore the ``hallmarks of al-Qaeda.'' They said they're looking into the statements of responsibility from both groups linked to al-Qaeda.

The last major al-Qaeda attack in Europe was in Madrid on March 11, 2004, when 191 people were killed after bombs exploded at four train stations. Bombers in Istanbul killed more than 60 people in attacks in November 2003 on synagogues, the British Consulate General and a building owned by HSBC Holdings Plc.

Since Friday morning, more than 50 security alerts took place on the London Underground, leading to delayed and canceled train services, TfL said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. A security alert today at Euston Station caused disruptions on the Northern and Victoria lines, TfL said on its Web site.

Streams of commuters were seen walking toward the city, and buses were crowded from Islington, north of the center.

The U.S. Air Force ban on travel to London was criticized today by both police chief Blair and the U.K.'s opposition Conservative Party.

``It sends out the message that the terrorists have won,'' the party's defense spokesman, Andrew Robathan, told the BBC before the measure was lifted.

Last Updated: July 12, 2005 11:02 EDT

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UK police raid homes in preplanned operation

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