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Revealed: How MI5 let 7-7 bombers slip through their fingers, Daily Mail, May 1, 2007.

Spirit of London Bus in Memory of Terror VictimsAstonishing details of how MI5 let two of the July 7 London suicide bombers slip through their fingers can be revealed for the first time.

Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer were photographed four times meeting members of an Al Qaeda cell who were plotting to use a huge fertiliser bomb in what would have been the UK’s largest mass murder.

But the security services concentrated on the fertiliser plotters, who were jailed for life at the Old Bailey, and took no further action over what they thought were “fringe contacts” involved simply in credit card fraud.

In all, intelligence chiefs missed 12 clear opportunities to arrest the 7/7 cell between 2003, when ringleader Khan first came to their attention, and the day the four bombers killed 52 Tube and bus passengers.

Khan was secretly recorded talking to the leader of the second plot about terrorism and MI5 had his name, phone number, car number and address on file 16 months before the 2005 atrocity.
They three times followed cars he was driving, including a 150-mile journey to his home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

On one occasion his “shadows” reported Khan driving suspiciously, making U-turns and going very slowly at roundabouts, as if he wanted to see if he was being followed.
The surveillance details, which could not be revealed until the fertiliser gang had stood trial, provoked a furious row last night.

There was massive pressure on the Home Office to launch an independent inquiry into what went wrong.

The Government had claimed the suicide attacks came “out of the blue” and the bombers were not known to security services.

Families of 7/7 victims expressed outrage at the “cover up” of how much was known about Khan and Tanweer and said there was now no doubt their attacks could have been prevented.
There were also claims that the failure to catch the 7/7 bombers was the real reason MI5 chief Eliza Manningham-Buller resigned unexpectedly early from her job.

The ban on reporting the shocking details was lifted with the conclusion of Britain’s longest-ever terror trial, which lasted 13 months and, together with the police investigation, cost an estimated £50 million.

Five British Muslims were convicted of plotting to blow up Bluewater shopping centre in Kent or the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London with a 1,300lb fertilizer bomb.

They also discussed hijacking planes to cause an outrage “bigger than 9/11”, blowing up the Comandmons and buying a nuclear device from the Russian mafia.

Omar Khyam, 25, Waheed Mahmood, 35, Salahuddin Amin, 32, Anthony Garcia, 25, and Jawad Akbar, 23, were sentenced to life imprisonment after judge Sir Michael Astill told them they had “betrayed the country that has given you every advantage in life”.

The jury, which deliberated for a record 27 days, was not told of the men’s close links to the July 7 bombers as the judge decided it would be too prejudicial.

The trial heard that key plotters had been radicalised by hate preachers Omar Bakri Mohammed Abu Hamza, and the judge condemned such figures who “lurk in the shadows”, describing them as “masters of cowardice”.

Khyam, Amin and Mahmood had been in contact in Pakistan with a terror planner called Abdul Hadi, who they described as the “number three in Al Qaeda”.

Hadi also met 7/7 bombers Khan and Tanweer, suggesting he may have co-ordinated the plots.
Both MI5 and the Metropolitan Police, who rounded up the fertiliser bomb plotters, insisted they had no reason to think Khan and Tanweer were dangerous. They dismissed them as credit-card fraudsters raising money to support militants abroad.

Jonathan Evans, who took over as head of MI5 last Friday, said- “The sense of disappointment felt across the service at not being able to prevent the attack – despite our efforts to prevent all such atrocities – will always be with us.”

Hours after the 7/7 attacks, the then home secretary Charles Clarke claimed the suicide bombings came “out of the blue” with “no knowledge beforehand whatsoever”.

But shadow home secretary David Davis said it was “crystal clear” the Government had not told the whole truth.

He said the case for an independent inquiry was overwhelming. Lib-Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell also called for a full inquiry.

Graham Foulkes, who lost his 22-year-old son David in the Edgware Road blast, said he was “absolutely overwhelmed with a sense of sheer disbelief”.

But Tony Blair’s official spokesman, who described the smashing of the fertiliser plot as a success which saved many lives, dismissed the need for an inquiry.

He said- “We shouldn’t jump from the fact that new evidence has been made public to the assumption that 7/7 could have been prevented.”

Home Secretary John Reid also dismissed inquiry calls, saying he would instead ask the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee to review MI5’s role.

Tory MP and terrorism expert Patrick Mercer branded his response “absolutely outrageous”, insisting- “He owes it to the families of those who died on July 7 to rip the scab off this case and find out exactly what happened.”

Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Peter Clarke also defended the failure to target Khan and Tanweer, saying the resources needed to investigate all individuals under suspicion were “simply not there”.

The surveillance operation which picked up Khan and Tanweer, codenamed Operation Crevice, was at the time the biggest in the history of UK counter-terrorism.

MI5 had Khan’s phone number on file as early as 2003 after it monitored the calls of another suspect.

Khyam, the ringleader of the fertiliser bomb plot, was spotted meeting Khan four times in February and March 2004.

On one occasion Khan was recorded by a bugging device discussing whether to say goodbye to his infant daughter before a trip to Pakistan – suggesting he may already have been contemplating a suicide mission.

He was also heard talking about ‘jihad’ and how to build a bomb without being discovered by police.
It has also emerged that an Al Qaeda supergrass warned police in 2004 that a Briton he had met at a terror camp in Pakistan was “trouble” and “should be checked out”.

But MI5 failed to discover that the unidentified man was Khan because they never showed the informer pictures of him.

All five men convicted had also attended terror training camps in Pakistan.

Khyam and his co-conspirators bought enough ammonium nitrate and aluminium powder to make a bomb three times the size of the one which devastated Omagh.

The fertiliser was kept in a selfstorage facility in Hanwell, west London, ready to be used with remote- controlled detonators.

Detectives believe the plotters were just days from exploding it.

But they were arrested on March 30, 2004, in raids involving almost a thousand police.

Khyam and Mahmood, of Crawley, West Sussex, and Garcia, of Barkingside, East London, were sentenced to life with a minimum tariff of 20 years for conspiring to cause explosions.

Akbar, of Crawley, and Amin, of Luton, got life with a minimum of 17 and a half years.

The judge warned the five they might never be released.

He said they might consider themselves heroes of their cause, but they were “nothing but cruel and ruthless misfits who should be removed from society”.

Khyam’s brother Shujah Mahmood, 20, and student Nabeel Hussain, 21, were cleared of any part in the conspiracy.

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