David Leppard – The Sunday Times May 6, 2007
An official government document raises fresh doubts over the account given by ministers and MI5 about how much the intelligence services knew about the 7/7 bombers before the London suicide attacks.
The 37-page document, compiled for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), states that Mohammad Sidique Khan, leader of the July 7 gang, was “identified” six months before the attacks in 2005 — contrary to statements made by home secretary John Reid last week. The document, cleared by MI5’s legal department, also casts doubt on the security agency’s claim that Khan and fellow bomber Shehzad Tanweer “appeared as petty fraudsters” rather than terrorists while they were being watched by intelligence agents in the year before the bombings.
The CPS document says MI5 surveillance showed the pair “were concerned with intended terrorist activity” when they met with a gang planning a bombing at the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent.
The revelation will add to pressure on ministers to yield to calls from victims’ relatives and opposition MPs for a full inquiry into the 7/7 suicide attacks, in which 52 people died.
Tony Blair last week again ruled out an inquiry, saying it would divert resources from the war on terror. However, relatives’ groups say only an inquiry will establish whether the attacks could have been prevented and whether parliament was misled by MI5 attempts to cover up its intelligence failures.
The CPS document was prepared in the case of five men convicted at the Old Bailey last week for plotting to use a fertiliser bomb to attack Bluewater. It was only after the trial that details could be made public of how Khan and Tanweer had been followed, photographed and bugged by MI5 while meeting with Omar Khyam, the gang leader, and another suspect.
Reid told MPs last week that neither Khan nor Tanweer were “known” to the security services until after July 7. He later said police and security services had “no records on them”.
However, the CPS file reveals that Khan was identified six months earlier and recorded in police files. It says an employee of the Just Car Clinic in Leeds identified him in a police statement taken in January 2005.
The CPS report says Khan had taken his car to the garage for repairs and it contains a summary of MI5 logs that show he was followed in the Honda car the previous month.
It has also emerged that Scotland Yard’s antiterrorist branch carried out inquiries with the company insuring Khan’s car at the time of the surveillance operation.
MI5’s claim that Khan and Tanweer “appeared as petty fraudsters” in loose contact with the fertiliser gang and that there was no indication they were involved in terrorist plotting is also undermined by the CPS document. It argues that meetings between the two men and the fertiliser plotters in 2004 were so significant they should have been brought to the jury’s attention.
Rachel North, a survivor of the July 7 attacks, said: “MI5 said they didn’t know who Khan was until after the bombs. Yes they did. And they knew [Khan and Tanweer] had links with international terrorism.”
Four Found Guilty in UK Terror Trial
Last updated 11/05/2007