It emerged last night that Abdulwahab, who was due to turn 29 yesterday, is a former physical therapy student at Bedfordshire University in Luton, and that his wife and three young children still live in the town.
MI5 is now investigating possible links with extremists in Luton, whether the bomber was radicalised at the university and claims that he was helped by an extremist group in Yemen, the base for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The suicide bombing follows an attempt by Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, a former student at University College London, to blow himself up last Christmas on a flight to Detroit.
Abdulmutallab had trained in Yemen, but had become increasingly radical during his time in Britain. The security services and police are concerned that British university campuses have become breeding grounds for extremism. Neighbours told The Daily Telegraph last night that they had last seen Abdulwahab at the 1930s semi-detached house in Luton, Beds, two and a half weeks ago. The couple have two young girls and a baby son. His wife, Mona, a Swedish citizen, is said to run a home beauty company.
Tahir Hussain, 33, a taxi driver who lives nearby, said: “I used to see him around often. He didn’t say much but seemed nice. I used to see him walking with his kids.
“I was shocked when I heard what happened because I never thought he could do such a thing.”
Mr Hussain said that the couple had been living there for a year and that Abdulwahab used to go to Friday prayers at the Islamic Centre in Luton.
The bomber had recently advertised on a Muslim dating site for a second wife, saying he was looking for a “lady 25-30 who lives in UK for marriage”. The site, Muslima.com, said he was born in Baghdad, Iraq, and moved to Sweden in 1992 and then to Britain in 2001 to study for a degree in physical therapy, marrying in 2004.
On his Facebook page, he included a group called Yawm al-Qiyaamah, meaning Day of Judgment, that featured a montage of Tower Bridge in flames.
Reports from Sweden said Abdulwahab was shouting in Arabic and carrying six pipebombs, one of which exploded, along with a rucksack full of nails and explosives.
A paramedic said the bomber had no injuries to the face or body in general but looked as if he had been carrying something that exploded in his stomach. One witness said the bomber had worked as a sandwich board advertiser in the Drottninggatan shopping area.
Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, said it was “a most worrying attempt at a terrorist attack”, adding that it “failed – but could have been truly catastrophic”. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said: “The Swedish government have indicated they believe this was a terrorist attack. We will be talking to them about the details of that attack.”
Abdulwahab’s father, Thamer, 61, who lives in Tranås, south of Stockholm, said his son had been at the family home on Friday.
“After he woke up Saturday morning, he took his car and drove off,” he said. “He did not say if he was going to Stockholm or elsewhere.”
An Yemeni Islamist website, Shumukh al-Islam, published a photograph of Abdulwahab in dark glasses, saying: “It is our brother, mujahid Taymour Abdel Wahab, who carried out the martyrdom operation in Stockholm.”
Twelve minutes before the bombing on Saturday, a Swedish news agency received a message with two sound files, one in Swedish and one in Arabic, that was also sent to the Swedish Security Police. The message criticised Swedes’ silence over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and Swedish soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Abdulwahab said: “Now your children, your daughters and your sisters will die as our brothers, our sisters and our children are dying.”
He also asked his family for forgiveness for misleading them about a trip to the Middle East: “I never went to the Middle East to work or to make money, I went for jihad.” He asked his wife to kiss the children on his behalf. “Tell them Daddy loves them,” he added.