What did MI5 know about 2005 London bombings?


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

British terror trial raises question of what MI5 knew about 2005 London bombings

By Julie Hyland

Global Research, May 9, 2007

Following a series of damning revelations during the trial of seven men for 
their roles in the alleged ³fertiliser bomb plot,² the government is continuing 
to dismiss calls for an independent inquiry into the July 7, 2005, London 

Last week, Omar Khyam, Waheed Mahmood, Jawad Akbar, Salahuddin Amin and Anthony 
Garcia were jailed for life for conspiring to cause explosions likely to 
endanger life between January 1, 2003, and March 31, 2004. Two other men, Nabeel
Hussain and Shujah Mahmood, were found not guilty after one of the 
longest-running anti-terror trials in the world. Operation Crevice involved 
3,644 witness statements and 105 prosecution witnesses. The jury took a record 
27 days to deliberate their verdict.

The seven were accused of purchasing 600 kg of ammonium nitrate (used as 
fertiliser) and storing it in a London unit in preparation for a major bomb 
attack in Britain. The 13-month hearing heard transcripts of the accused 
discussing potential targets including the Bluewater Shopping Centre in southern
England and nightclubs.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair described the trial and its 
outcome as a ³triumph² for Britain¹s intelligence services and denounced those 
accusing the police of making strategic errors as ³nay-sayers.²

His comments were part of a sustained offensive by the police, government and 
much of the media to quash renewed demands for an independent inquiry into the 
July 7 bombings, after the trial heard fresh evidence that two of the 
ringleaders of the explosions on London Underground trains and a bus‹Mohammed 
Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer‹had been known to the intelligence services at 
least five months before they made their attack.

On May 1, survivors and relatives of those killed on July 7 delivered a letter 
to the Home Office calling for an ³independent and impartial public inquiry² 
into the attack. Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected their demand and insisted 
MI5 was doing an ³amazing job.² An inquiry would only divert resources from the 
fight against terrorism, Blair claimed.

In an unprecedented move, MI5 published a reply to criticisms on its website, 
³Rumours and Reality‹the facts behind the myths,² whilst the press rolled into 
action to defend the intelligence agency. The Guardian editorialised, ³An 
inquiry might rake over old failings, not current ones. It could add to the 
pressures on those policing terrorism. Carried out in private, it might not even
do much to reassure the public....²

Whilst acknowledging that mistakes had been made, the editorial continued, ³A 
one-off inquiry into an investigation that succeeded much more than it failed is
not the way to make it better.²

Writing in the Independent, Deborah Orr Deborah complained, ³The last thing we 
need, in the wake of the Operation Crevice verdict, is an elaborate inquiry, 
which would simply be another way of throwing money away.²

In the same newspaper, Howard Jacobson argued, ³I wonder how many of those 
calling for this inquiry were busy telling us not all that long ago that there 
was no terrorism for our security services to police. An invention of our 
respective governments‹Blair¹s and Bush¹s‹the lot of it.²

Disparaging the questions raised over the real purpose of Bush and Blair¹s ³war 
on terror,² he continued, ³is that a Œsorry¹ I hear amid the accusations that we
have not been sufficiently vigilant? A sorry from those who thought vigilance 
was uncalled for and sinister?²

Such a pose of self-serving triumphalism will do nothing to quell the questions 
raised by the Old Bailey hearing, and their grave implications for democratic 

Most damning of all is the revelation that MI5 was well aware of the identities 
of several of those of went on to carry out the July 7 bombings and their 
involvement in terror activities, but decided not to follow them up.

The trial heard that, several months before the accused were arrested, police 
had been tipped off by the storage unit as to the quantity of fertiliser being 
held on its premises. Having replaced the fertiliser with a harmless substance, 
a plainclothes police officer was stationed at the reception whilst hidden 
surveillance cameras recorded everyone attending the facility.

³Operation Crevice² was therefore intended as a massive information-gathering 
exercise. The court heard how the probe uncovered 55 individuals known to have 
associated with the plotters, of whom 15 were considered ³essential² targets. 
Yet, Khan and Tanweer were ³parked up² with the remainder‹i.e. treated as 
non-urgent cases. This is despite MI5 recording meetings between Khan and 
Tanweer on four occasions in 2004 with Omar Khyam, described at the Old Bailey 
as the ringleader of the fertiliser plot.

The court also heard how Khan was amongst several of the accused that had 
attended a terrorist camp in the Afghan border region in July 2003, and that 
anti-terror police had investigated two cars linked to him, five months before 
the July 7 bombings. Yet, despite having his name and address, no follow-up was 

MI5 claims that this was because the two had not been heard discussing terrorist
acts and ³appeared as petty fraudsters.² But in transcripts of bugged 
conversations played in court, Khan is heard discussing attending a terror 
training camp and conducting financial scams in preparation for what his 
co-conspirator describes as ³a one-way ticket.²

Neither has MI5 been able to explain why it omitted sending surveillance 
pictures of Khan to the FBI during its interrogation of the so-called Al Qaeda 
³supergrass² (informer) Mohammed Junaid Babar, who gave evidence for the 

MI5¹s claims regarding Khan and Tanweer are, moreover, contradicted by a 37-page
document compiled for the Crown Prosecution Service, which was revealed by the 
Sunday Times on May 6.

According to the newspaper, the CPS document states that ³MI5 surveillance 
showed the pair [Khan and Tanweer] Œwere concerned with intended terrorist 
activity¹ when they met with a gang planning a bombing at the Bluewater shopping
centre in Kent.²

It also states that Kahn was ³identified² six months before he carried out the 
July 7 bombings.

It is proof that Khan and Tanweer had been identified by the intelligence 
services months before July 7 that has particularly angered survivors of the 
London explosions. At the time, then-Home Secretary Charles Clarke had claimed 
those involved were ³clean skins²‹i.e., unknown to the police and intelligence 
services‹whilst Blair told parliament, ³I know of no intelligence specific 
enough² to have prevented the attacks.

The Times notes that only last week, current Home Secretary John Reid had told 
MPs that that ³neither Khan nor Tanweer were Œknown¹ to the security services 
until after July 7. He later said police and security services had Œno records 
on them.¹ ³

The Times added that the CPS document ³argues that meetings between the two men 
and the fertiliser plotters in 2004 were so significant they should have been 
brought to the jury¹s attention.²

Evidence that MI5 had been able to identify Khan and Tanweer has also led to 
accusations that it withheld information from parliament¹s Intelligence and 
Security Committee.

The ISC report issued in May 2006 stated that none of the July 7 bombers had 
been ³named and listed² as potential terror threats. It stated that although MI5
had come across Khan and Tanweer ³on the peripheries² of other investigative 
operations, their identities were unknown.

The ISC was also not shown surveillance photographs of the meetings between 
Khan, Tanweer and Omar Khyam. Security officials have said this was not 
necessary, as members of the ISC were aware of the links. ³The reason they were 
not shown them is because it didn¹t add to the facts. If they had felt the need 
to ask to see them, they would have asked,² one source was reported as stating.

The ISC is a toothless body, appointed by the prime minister and responsible 
directly to him. It is for this reason, and to divert demands for a more 
far-ranging independent inquiry, that Blair established his 2005 investigation. 
It is for the same reason that the ISC has meekly said it will ³look again² at 
information revealed during the trial.

In addition to the damning evidence of MI5¹s foreknowledge of Khan and Tanweer¹s
involvement in terror plots, the fertiliser trial has raised many other 
fundamental questions.

In the same leader cited above, the Guardian revealed that ³restrictive limits 
on reporting² over the last 13 months meant that the ³story of Operation 
Crevice...will come as a surprise to almost everyone outside the narrow circle 
of politicians and security professionals who‹together with those present in 
court‹were aware that one of the most remarkable trials in British criminal 
history had been underway.²

On what grounds were such restrictions imposed, and for whose purposes? The 
Guardian does not say. In a separate article, the newspaper also noted that the 
ISC¹s 2006 findings were ³written under restrictions to avoid prejudicing the 
trial of the fertiliser bomb plotters.² In other words, the findings of the only
³investigation² into July 7 were themselves subject to even further 

Then there are the allegations made during the trial that Britain¹s security 
services had sanctioned the torture in Pakistan of one of the accused, 
Salahuddin Amin.

A British citizen, Amin was arrested and interrogated in Pakistan for 10 months,
during which he alleges he was beaten and flogged, threatened with an electric 
drill, and forced to listen to the screams of others being abused before 
confessing to his involvement in a bomb-making conspiracy.

He has accused MI5 of directing his abuse‹alleging that he was visited on at 
least 10 occasions during his detention by MI5 officers, and that one of his 
interrogations may have been filmed for Britain¹s security forces who were 
simultaneously questioning his co-accused in London. Amin was eventually freed 
in Pakistan, having been told that he had been ³cleared in England² and could 
leave the country. He was arrested as soon as his plane landed at Heathrow.

In court, Amin¹s counsel, Patrick O¹Connor QC‹who is helping prepare a civil 
action against the British government‹suggested that both sides in the so-called
war on terror had come ³to share common standards of illegality and immorality.²

What of the role of ³supergrass² Babar, who was given immunity from prosecution 
in Britain after pleading guilty to terrorism offences in a New York court?

Babar said that he faced the death penalty for his role in a conspiracy to kill 
Pakistan¹s President Pervez Musharraf if he had not collaborated with the FBI. 
In the US, he also confessed to obtaining ammonium nitrate and aluminium powder 
for use by the fertiliser plotters, and in court, he testified that he had 
attended a terrorist training camp in Pakistan in 2003 where he met Khyam, 
Mahmood, Garcia and Amin.

The BBC reported how Babar had been ³well trained² for his role in the trial and
had ³memorised his statement to the British police, given to counter-terrorism 
officers while he was in custody in the US, and knew every date and location in 
the long story of the conspiracy.² Under questioning, however, ³cracks began to 
appear in his carefully prepared account,² and at the end of his evidence, ³the 
jury themselves sent a note² asking for him to explain again key details of his 

For their part, defence lawyers have accused Babar of being a double agent.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of 
the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on 

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© Copyright Julie Hyland, wsws.org, 2007
© Copyright 2005 GlobalResearch.ca

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