Properties targeted in inquiry still deserted
A BOOKSHOP, a youth club and a computer sales and service store – all seemingly ordinary places which became the focus of last
summer's extraordinary events.
Beeston's Iqra bookshop; its Hamara Youth Action Project; and nearby Idoo PC, were all raided by anti-terror officers last year after it emerged three of the July 7 bombers had close links to the Leeds suburb.
But what has happened to them in the 12 months since the authorities dramatically swooped – seizing equipment and, in some cases, evacuating hundreds of people from the homes around them in the name of public safety?
Almost as soon as Beeston became the focus of the search for clues to the London bombings, one of the first police targets was the Hamara Youth Action Point (YAP) on Lodge Lane.
The club is said to have been one of ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan's favourite haunts, a place where he tried to radicalise the area's youngsters.
While the Hamara management established the YAP to provide "social, recreational and educational" activities for young people in Beeston, locals tell a different story. They say that while the centre was being refurbished, the bombers – who were banned from every mosque in the area – would gather there to discuss their radial views.
One member of the YAP's youth team – a close friend of Khan's – was arrested in the days after the bombings, but later released without charge. To date he is the only person arrested in connection with the July 7 attacks.
Today – just as it has been since last July – the YAP is deserted. The graffiti-scrawled shutters were pulled down even before police began their scrupulous finger-tip search of the property, and have never been opened since. Bomb squad officers spent days inside and forensic experts hauled out bags stuffed with computer equipment and other material.
Businessmen who work in the shops alongside are hopeful that the youth club may now drop its association with terror, as planning permission has been granted for an Asian sweet shop.
But nobody yet knows what is to become of the Iqra Learning Centre a few hundred yards away.
It too, has lain empty since last July, when detectives stormed the Islamic bookshop in their hunt for evidence.
Just a day after the London bombings the Bude Road shop was one of many Muslim organisations across Leeds which united in condemning the attacks in an open letter to Tony Blair.
Before anybody even knew the bombers were from Beeston – much less that they had been frequent visitors to the shop – Iqra was one of the signatories of the letter which said: "We write to express our deepest anger and sympathy at the terrible atrocities committed in London.
"The Muslim community of Leeds stands in solidarity with the Government and will confront terrorism such as that committed on July 7 in whatever way possible."
One week later, the Iqra Centre was raided by anti-terror officers.
Former patrons claim those who ran the shop are entirely innocent – that staff would simply give out free Islamic literature and offered media services and youth activities. "It had absolutely nothing to do with terrorism," said one. "It was just a place where people went to meet, have a chat and read books."
Yesterday sources within West Yorkshire Police said their investigations into both the Iqra Centre and the Youth Action Project have been on-going since last July, and are not over yet.
Two months after the initial raids in Leeds, police staged a fresh wave of searches – this time storming a computer shop in Beeston and a training centre in Sheffield.
The Idoo PC shop on Dewsbury Road in Beeston was raided on September 13 and its sister business IT2 Home, in the Darnall area of Sheffield, was raided three days later.
All computer equipment was seized from both properties because it was believed the bombers could have had access to them.
The owner of the Beeston enterprise, Imran Bham, is known to have been friends with those who ran both the Iqra and the Hamara Youth Action Point.
Mr Bham's home on Bridge Street in Batley was also raided.
No charges have arisen from the operation, but again, officers say the investigation is ongoing. Idoo PC's management tried to keep the business open in the wake of the raids, but finally closed the shop for good a month later.
Staff claim that although police have never found any evidence of criminal activity, customers stayed away because of its association with the terror inquiry.
One member of staff, who did not wish to be named, told the Yorkshire Post: "We were put out of business by what happened last year.
"We tried to get the computers back from the police but we weren't able to. We can't even get an audit of what they took. They took every single computer – customers' machines, and even the dummy one which we kept on display with flashing lights.
"People didn't want to touch us after that."
He said Learn Direct, the Government backed organisation which funded the Sheffield business, had also cut ties with the business since the police raids.
He added that when officers raided Imran Bham's home address, the bomb squad was brought in to test large plastic containers which turned out to be full of holy water.
More July 7 coverage. . .