| Shamsul Islam holds a picture of his daughter Shahara Akhter Islam in London. Shahara is still missing since the London bombings. (Reuters)
London, July 12: Anti-terrorist police looking for the London bombers today searched six homes in West Yorkshire, an area with a large Muslim population, and set off a controlled explosion outside one house to gain access.
One man was arrested in the raids, according to deputy assistant commissioner Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch.
Among the houses searched, three are homes of suspects ' the police have put their number at four, whose identities they are trying to establish.
Police also seized a vehicle found in a car park at Luton, near London, which they believed was linked to the investigation, Clarke said.
“I have to tell you that this investigation is moving at great speed,” he said.
A West Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “This morning in a pre-planned intelligence-led operation, Metropolitan Police officers supported by West Yorkshire Police officers carried out search warrants issued under the Terrorism Act at residential premises in West Yorkshire.”
The dawn raids began at around 6.30 and were spread throughout the morning.
The head of Scotland Yard, Sir Ian Blair, said the raids were “directly connected” to Thursday’s London blasts.
The raids were in and around Leeds. Police sealed off a section of Colwyn Road in Beeston, Leeds.
Around 10 police officers stood outside the houses in the street and police tape cordoned off an area of about 75 yards. Within the outer cordon, a second section of police tape marked off a red Volkswagen car outside one of the addresses.
In the district of Burley near the Leeds Grand Mosque, army personnel were brought in to carry out a “controlled explosion”. About 100 yards away, armed officers earlier took up positions.
Inspector Miles Himsworth, who was present, said around 500 to 600 people were evacuated from the run-down, mixed-race area dotted with red brick terraced houses.
He said police gained entry to the property following the explosion. “Here, we are searching the premises for explosives and bits and pieces,” he added.
Asked to explain what bits and pieces meant, he said the list was too long but would include items such as computers.
Neighbours at one of the addresses raided said a 22-year-old man who lived there with his family had gone “missing”.
Police in the area are trying to reassure the public, partly to ensure there is no backlash against the Muslim community.
If the four men ' suspected to be from the area ' are involved, they may not have told their parents or other family members that they were on their way to mount possible suicide missions in London.
Colin Cramphorn, chief constable of West Yorkshire, said: “West Yorkshire Police is here to protect and serve all the communities of West Yorkshire. It will continue to do so.”