Tahir Pervaiz remembers his nephew as a nice young man who shared two of the prevailing passions of his peers: cricket and Osama bin Laden. This past winter, British-born Shahzad Tanweer spent several weeks out of a three-month trip in Pakistan with maternal uncle Pervaiz and his family. Every evening he liked to play cricket with their neighbors in the quiet village of Kottan, a 55-minute drive from Faisalabad, in central Pakistan. Tanweer also admired bin Laden, a common sentiment in a country where the al-Qaeda leader's image is as popular an emblem of youthful rebellion as Che Guevara once was in the West.
Pervaiz still cannot believe that the 22-year-old Tanweer was one of four suicide bombers who incised a cross of destruction onto the map of London on July 7. "Tanweer was a noble soul," Pervaiz told Time. "He was a shy and simple guy who would never be involved in a heinous crime like a suicide bombing."
Investigators are now trying to piece together a narrative of Tanweer's movements. Pakistani officials believe that Tanweer, along with one of the other British-born bombers of Pakistani descent, Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, visited Pakistan in the months preceding the attacks to make preparations and possibly to meet with the architects of the plot. Pakistan has been accused of being a haven for supporters and members of al-Qaeda and other affiliated groups such as Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harkat-ul-Mujahedin. Western governments are urging Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to crack down on their activities. A series of arrests at the country's extremist madrasahs, or Islamic schools, started last week; diplomats in Islamabad insist Musharraf had informed them of his plan to crack down on madrasahs two days before the London attacks.
Sources in Pakistan's intelligence agency, ISI, say that progress in the investigation has been patchy. Deputy inspector general of the Faisalabad police, Chaudhary Sajjad, says he has not arrested a single person in connection with the London bombings. "Whatever happened in London," says Sajjad, "was most probably masterminded in London and had nothing to do with Pakistan." Cases of mistaken identity have added to the confusion. Hasib Hussain, the 18-year-old bomber who killed 14 on a bus in London's Tavistock Square, was said by immigration officials to have entered Pakistan in 2004. In fact, the traveler was a 16-year-old British national of the same name who had nothing to do with the bombings.
Khan and Tanweer arrived together in Karachi on Nov. 19, 2004. About a week later, the two boarded an overnight train to Lahore. They then went on to Faisalabad, and thence to Pervaiz's house. According to Pervaiz, Khan used the house as a base, frequently leaving it ostensibly on visits to his own family in Rawalpindi. Tanweer stuck close to home, reading books, chatting to his cousins and other locals. He also prayed five times a day, fasted once a week and often led the Friday prayers at the local mosque. Yet Pervaiz says that neither his religious devotion, his praise for bin Laden nor his support for the attacks on the U.S. of Sept. 11, 2001, hinted at his intentions. Tanweer "embraced life," says his uncle. "He never talked about getting involved himself."
Tanweer told his uncle that he had come to Pakistan to learn more about his roots. Some investigators believe that his visits he made at least two, the first in 2003 radicalized him. Musharraf dismissed that idea in an address last week, saying "Three [of the bombers] are from Pakistani parentage, [but] they had been born, bred and educated in England." Indisputably, Britain's large Muslim community has proved fertile recruiting ground for al-Qaeda. Since 2001 hundreds of young British Muslims have gone to Pakistan, where they have received training by extremist groups. Activists in Britain keep a watch in mosques and community centers for young men to join the cause. "It's very discreet," a militant in the outlawed group Jaish-e-Muhammad tells Time. "The recruiters are ordinary white-collar people. When the volunteers start working they don't know they're working for al-Qaeda. They just think they're working on behalf of Muslims."
Was Tanweer trained in Pakistan? A former commander in the Harkat-ul-Mujahedin in Pakistan, who himself trained as a suicide bomber and recruited others, told Time what this would involve. "During training we never tell someone that we are making him into a suicide bomber," he says. Instead, the trainee will be asked about his ambitions, why he thinks God has sent him to the world, reminded constantly about atrocities against Muslims. A hot prospect becomes more introverted, sleeps and eats less.
"You will find him searching through the Koran in the middle of the night," says this source. "And then one fine morning you will see him with tears in his eyes begging you to prepare him. Nobody can stop him now, no one can change his mind. He lives on earth, but his mind is somewhere else, like he is already in heaven."
Pervaiz says that Tanweer left the village to visit madrasahs in Lahore and Faisalabad only occasionally, and that the trips were for just a few days at a time. Militant sources tell Time that both Tanweer and Khan studied at a madrasah in Faisalabad. Tanweer may have found inspiration for jihad on his 2003 trip. Intelligence sources tell Time that on that visit, he met Osama Nazir, then a senior member of Jaish-e-Muhammad and currently in custody in connection with several attacks throughout Pakistan in 2002 at Jamia Fatahul Rahemia, a small religious school in Faisalabad. (The school principal, Qari Ahlullal Raheemi, denies ever having met Tanweer.) Just days after the London bombings, Nazir told Pakistani interrogators that he had met Tanweer, and that since the terror attacks in 2001, more than 300 British Muslims of Pakistani descent have visited Pakistan to attend religious schools, receive training, and sign up for suicide missions abroad. If that is true, the British may soon learn the names of more young men whom their uncles thought were merely gentle cricketers.