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MI5 admits we've run out of leads on bombers

David Leppard / London Times | January 29 2006

Comment: Here's a coupe of leads for MI5:

7/7 Mastermind was working for British Intelligence

Underground Bombing 'Exercises' Took Place at Same Time as Real Attack

A LEAKED secret document reveals that MI5 has discovered almost nothing about the worst terrorist attack against Britain despite months of investigation.
After the biggest MI5 and police inquiry ever mounted, a secret report for Tony Blair and senior ministers into the July 7 London bombings states: “We know little about what three of the bombers did in Pakistan, when attack planning began, how and when the attackers were recruited, the extent of any external direction or assistance and the extent and role of any wider network.”

The eight-page report, by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), admits that MI5 still does not know whether the attacks of July 7 and July 21 were linked and whether Al-Qaeda chiefs were behind them.

“The last few weeks have seen few significant developments . . . and we are not that much further on in our assessment,” the report notes.

Referring to the MI5 codenames for both terror plots, the report states: “There is still no intelligence to link the Stepford (July 7) and Hat (July 21) attacks; we still do not know whether we are dealing with an orchestrated campaign or coincidental/copycat attacks.

“We do not know how, when and with whom the attack planning originated. And we still do not know what degree of external assistance either group had.

“Whilst investigations are progressing, there remain significant gaps in our knowledge.”

On the possible role of Al-Qaeda chiefs, the report says: “We still have no insight into the degree . . . of command and control of the operation.”

It also says: “How long the 7/7 attack had been planned remains unknown.” It adds: “We do not have any conclusive findings from forensic examinations of the group’s bomb-making expertise.” The report concludes that “we know little” about how suspects operated.

The disclosure will anger victims’ relatives and survivors of the July 7 attacks in which 56 people, including the four suicide bombers, died.

This weekend Rachel North, an advertising executive who was injured in the King’s Cross bomb, said: “I am disappointed that they have not come up with any real leads. Most of the survivors want to know not just what happened but why it happened. This absolutely underlines the need for a transparent, independent public inquiry.”

The Tories are also calling for an independent inquiry into what the intelligence services knew before the attacks. The leak of a JTAC report, seen by The Sunday Times, is unprecedented and some within the intelligence services are known to feel that there should be a public inquiry.

Two years ago MI5 was given an injection of cash allowing it to recruit a further 1,000 staff, on top of the 2,000 it already has. Only last month the Treasury allocated a further £125m to the fight against terrorism, most of which went, despite police complaints, to MI5. It will be spent on recruiting hundreds more intelligence officers and opening branches in eight British cities.

The MI5 report, entitled London Attacks: the Emerging Picture, was delivered in October, but sources say the situation has changed little since then. Apparent contradictions in the report reveal how the intelligence services are struggling to make progress in their inquiries. At one point it records that some “AQ (Al-Qaeda) associations” are “emerging”; but it also says “there is no evidence yet of Al-Qaeda involvement”.

Even those leads that the intelligence services have managed to uncover are hedged. The report says that certain links between terrorist groups are “plausible” and “probably the most likely scenario”; and that it “strongly suspects” one man’s visit to Pakistan was relevant to one plot.

Among the tentative findings it says that a network of “Iraqi jihadis” is attempting to bring a terrorist campaign to Britain. The spy agency says that it is investigating a group of “Al-Qaeda facilitators” in the West Midlands. The men, led by a British citizen of Syrian origin, are believed to be trying to extend the insurgency in Iraq to Britain.
The main West Midlands suspect is said to have recruited at least one man to lead a terrorist cell and sent him to a terror camp in Pakistan for training.

The suspect is connected to a number of extremist groups and networks, including Al-Qaeda, as well as militant Kashmiri and north African groups. It states: “He has played a major role in facilitating support for the Iraq jihad.”

MI5 believes that he directed a second man, an Iraqi, who arranged a trip to a Pakistan training camp for the leader of a separate British terrorist cell.

The camp, which the cell leader visited over three months in early 2005, may have been the same one where Mohammad Sidique Khan, the alleged ringleader of the July 7 bombings, was trained. The report “speculates” that both men may have been trained by Al-Qaeda at the same time.

The second member of the group is said to have arrived in Britain in autumn 2004. He worked on “jihad support” until his arrest last January after intelligence suggested that he “may have acquired weapons in support of some unspecified action in the UK”, according to the report.

He has been detained by immigration authorities pending his deportation to Iraq.

MI5 says the two men may have been working ultimately for another West Midlands-based suspect who has links to Al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

The report reveals that the intelligence services have found “growing evidence of a wider extremist network in West Yorkshire associated with the 7/7 bombers”.

MI5 originally believed the July 7 gang had acted alone. The report suggests this view has changed, but with no certainty: “There is a distinct possibility that the Stepford Four were not acting alone and that fellow accomplices are still at large.”

The report says the attacks were “likely” to have been supported by Al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, revealing that in May and June 2005, “there were repeated phone calls from public telephone boxes in Pakistan to mobile telephones recovered at a ‘bomb factory’ in Leeds” where the July 7 rucksack bombs were made.

It says the gang’s Pakistani contact “is likely to have been providing support, advice and/or direction”.

The document reveals that MI5 is investigating the significance of a training camp in northern Pakistan set up shortly after Blair ordered British troops to join America in the invasion of Iraq. It states that Khan — leader of the July 7 attacks and known to MI5 as MSK — went there along with other British terrorists in July 2003 for training. But again MI5 can only speculate about his motive.

The leaked paper says: “(The camp) may have had a role in Stepford, encouraging MSK to turn his sights away from Afghanistan (his original intent) towards the UK.”

The leaking of the report is a further embarrassment for Britain’s secret services. At the same time as MI5 has failed to make any significant breakthrough in the London bombings inquiry, the spying efforts of MI6 in Moscow blew up in its face last week.

The Russian authorities revealed how they had caught British embassy staff using high-tech equipment hidden inside a fake rock to communicate with agents.

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