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Intelligence blunders that left 7/7 bombers free to slaughter
[May 01, 2007]

Intelligence blunders that left 7/7 bombers free to slaughter

(Yorkshire Post Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) THE leaders of the July 7 suicide bombers had close links to the terror gang which planned to cause carnage with a massive bomb made from fertiliser - but were allowed to slip through the net by security forces.

Covert surveillance by police and intelligence agencies caught 7/7 ringleader Mohammed Siddique Khan and his right-hand man, Shehzad Tanweer, meeting the London plotters and talking about terrorism.

But in a blunder that was to have horrific consequences, the security agencies concluded that Khan was a fund-raiser for terrorism and not actively plotting an attack, and so stopped watching him.

Fifteen months after surveillance on Khan, from Dewsbury, ceased he led the July 2005 bombings in London. He and Tanweer, along with Hasib Hussain, both from Leeds, and former Huddersfield man Jermaine Lindsay blew themselves up on three Tube trains and a bus, killing 52 people and injuring more than 700.

The links between the Yorkshire suicide bombers and the London plotters emerged during the early stages of the year-long trial that ended yesterday with the convictions of five men who planned to detonate a massive bomb made from 1,300lb of fertiliser at a busy shopping centre or nightclub, which would have claimed hundreds of lives.

Gang leader Omar Khyam, 25, and his henchmen Waheed Mahmood, 35, Jawad Akbar, 23, Anthony Garcia, 25, and Salahuddin Amin, 32, were all jailed for life. The jury was not told of the connection between the two al-Qaida-linked terrorist gangs.

Yesterday it also emerged one of the plotters boasted of working with top al-Qaida terrorist Abdul al-Hadi al-Iraqi who is said to have been the mastermind of 7/7.

The revelation of the links caused fury among survivors of the 7/7 atrocities and the families of the dead.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats demanded a full inquiry into why the security agencies failed to use intelligence gathered during Operation Crevice to prevent the first suicide bombings on British soil They called on Home Secretary John Reid to explain why the Government said in the aftermath of the 2005 outrages that those involved were not known to the security services.

But Mr Reid yesterday ruled out a public inquiry, claiming it would divert the police and security services away from the fight against terrorism. Instead, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) - which last summer published a lengthy report on the July 7 bombings - has been asked to "reappraise" all questions arising from the trial.

ISC chairman Paul Murphy insisted yesterday that there were "no culpable failures" by the intelligence agencies.

Surveillance caught four meetings between Khan and Khyam in February and March 2004, the last of which was just a week before the gang was arrested.

At that meeting, on March 23, Khan and Khyam discussed raising money for terrorism by defrauding banks, and talked about travelling to Pakistan. Security agencies then made the fateful decision that Khan was involved only in fund-raising.

Surveillance of Khyam and his gang identified 55 associates that the security services wanted to know more about. Of those, 15 were placed on a high-priority list. The remaining 40 were classified as lower priority - but they included Khan and Tanweer. The security services did not have enough people to carry out surveillance on them.

A senior source told the Yorkshire Post: "We have been back over that intelligence again and again, and on the strength of what we knew, there really was no other decision we could have taken." And in an unusual step, the new head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, issued a statement defending his service, which said: "The reality is that whilst we will continue to do everything in our power to protect the UK public, we must be honest about what can and cannot be prevented in a democratic society that values its freedoms." Listen to extracts of a conversation between Omar Khyam and Jawad Akbar, covertly recorded by police in March 2004, in Uxbridge, Middx.

In the first clip, they discuss reaction to an "operation" involving the energy industry, including the "beef up" of security. They are then heard discussing possibility of being arrested. They go on to talk about the idea of hi-jacking an aircraft with "30 brothers". Finally, Khyam asks Akbar if he thinks the room is being monitored. Akbar responds: "We give them too much credit." Full transcript of the audio recording (300k PDF) During the policd surveillance operation, an undercover officer codenamed Amanda was installed as a receptionist at the storage facility used by the plotters. During her time there, Amanda secretly recorded conversations with some of the suspects. Read a transcript of her conversation with Omar Khyam (102k PDF).

Background: A hatred nurtured in quiet suburbs

Copyright 2007 Johnston Press Plc. Source: Financial Times Information Limited

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