London police yesterday identified two of last Thursday’s failed bombers, who were living on welfare, and the flat they used to make the bombs.
In a day of fast-breaking developments, Scotland Yard also released details of a plastic food container found in the flat that could be a vital clue.
They believe the explosives were mixed and carried by the bombers in similar containers, a brand sold in only about 100 outlets across Britain.
The two bombers were identified as Yasin Hassan Omar, 24, from the war-torn Horn of Africa nation of Somalia; and Muktar Said Ibrahim, 27, thought to be from the troubled northeast African nation of Eritrea.
As polls show growing public concern about Britain’s Muslim community, the fact that Omar has been paid almost $60,000 in state benefits over six years is likely to cause more outrage.
He appears to have been living free in the one-bedroom flat in the northern suburb of Southgate after receiving political asylum.
The bombs were believed to have been assembled there.
Muktar, also known as Muktar Mohammed Said, moved in with him two years ago.
A neighbour, Sammy Jones, 33, said she saw the two men carrying unmarked boxes into the ninth-floor flat and asked them what they were.
Ms Jones said they claimed it was wallpaper stripper.
Other neighbours said the two had recently been joined by a third man, and the three used to kick a football about in a nearby park.
Omar had recently begun wearing Muslim robes.
Police are now convinced there were five bombers, after deciding a fifth ditched a bomb near Wormwood Scrubs jail in west London.
They have not identified the other three.
Five people have been arrested in connection with the two bombing attacks on London on July 7 and 21, but none was directly involved, police said.
Muktar’s father, believed to have been in London for 10 years, was also being quizzed.
Police allege Muktar was the bomber whose device failed to explode in a No. 26 bus in Hackney, East London, while Omar had tried to blow up an Underground train between Oxford Circus and Warren St, central London.
The news is likely to provoke calls for a thorough investigation into Britain’s generous political asylum policies.
It is likely all bombers in the second attacks were admitted to Britain as asylum-seekers.
The killers in the July 7 attacks were either of British or British-Pakistani origin and British citizens.
Intelligence sources said yesterday it was likely all the second bombers had connections with Somalia or northeast Africa.
Police raided the flat in Southgate in the early hours of Monday, sealing off three floors of the building.
It was then, according to sources, they found the clear plastic food container with a white lid that could be an important lead.
Police remain puzzled as to why nobody has come forward with information on the four suspects whose pictures have now been all over the media since last Friday.
They believe the four certainly have gone to ground and are being protected, which means the cell may be well organised and extensive.
Police last night made a new and urgent plea for public help after saying no sightings of the bombers had been reported since witnesses saw them fleeing on Thursday.
An inquest opened yesterday on the innocent Brazilian bystander Jean Charles de Menezes, the young electrician killed by police on Friday at Stockwell station, the bombers’ jumping-off point.
That coincidence was seen as a possible reason the police squad that killed Mr Menezes, 27, was apparently on a state of high alert or, as one source put it, jumpy.
The inquest was told Mr Menezes was shot eight times, rather than the five that had previously been reported, once in the shoulder and seven times in the head. The hearing was opened and adjourned.
Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed sympathy and regrets over the death.
Britain has promised to deal “sympathetically and quickly” with a claim for compensation from the family.
“We are desperately sorry for the death of an innocent person and I understand entirely the feelings of the young man’s family,” Mr Blair said.