Taped conversation between 7 July bombers casts doubt on MI5 account
THE row over MI5's handling of the London suicide bombings escalated sharply last night as the Conservatives openly questioned the honesty of the Security Service's account of events leading up to 7 July, 2005.
The Security Service is under intense scrutiny over the attacks because of the revelation earlier this week that its officers logged Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shezad Tanweer, two of the 7/7 bombers, meeting in early 2004 with Omar Khyam, who was on Monday jailed for life for plotting to explode fertiliser bombs in the UK.
MI5 has publicly insisted that it had too little information to fully identify Khan and Tanweer until after the attacks.
Crucially, the agency has assured ministers and MPs the decision not to fully investigate the two men in 2004 was made because none of the intelligence available at the time indicated they were involved in planning terrorist attacks in the UK.
MI5 has argued that bugged conversations and other evidence suggested they were mainly engaged in low-level fraud.
"They appeared as petty fraudsters in loose contact with members of the fertiliser plot, and the intelligence collected on them gave no indication they posed a terrorist threat," MI5 says in an unusual public statement on its website.
But with the end of Khyam's trial, evidence is entering the public domain that some say contradict's MI5's version of events. In particular, a transcript of a conversation between Khyam and Khan in February 2004 suggests the two were clearly discussing involvement in jihadi activity.
The two were discussing Khan's plans to travel to Pakistan, where he later attended a terrorist training camp. It is said that, during the summer of 2004, he changed his plans to fight in Afghanistan and decided instead to commit mass murder in the UK.
Khyam, a more experienced jihadist, gives Khan advice about life at the camp.
"One thing I will advise you, yeah, is total obedience to whoever your emir [leader] is, whether he is Sunni, Arab, Chechen, Saudi, British - total obedience," he says, adding: "Up there you can get your head cut off."
Of the trip, Khyam tells Khan: "This is a one-way ticket bruv." He also says: "You won't be allowed to take any of the jihad stuff for the flight."
Significantly, the tape suggests the fraud Khan was involved in was directly linked with his plans to travel to Pakistan.
"You are going to leave now; you may as well rip the country apart economically as well," Khyam says. "All the brothers are running scams and I advise you to do the same. You will probably walk away with 20 grand."
Last night, David Davis, the Conservative shadow home secretary, stepped up his party's criticism over the London attacks, again demanding a fresh inquiry. "Even as late as yesterday, MI5 were dismissing these two terrorists as 'petty fraudsters'," Mr Davis said. "This transcript shows that, far from 'petty fraudsters', they had jihadi sympathies, were associating with terror suspects up and down the country and planned to travel to Pakistan. The case for an independent, judge-led inquiry is overwhelming."
That call was supported yesterday by several survivors of the London attacks, which killed 52 people.
Up to 50 of those affected by the bombings signed a letter from the 7/7 Inquiry Group, asking the Home Office for a public inquiry.
"A year ago we were being told that the bombers were 'clean skins', coming out of the blue," said Rachel North, a member of the group. "It is quite apparent now that they were not."
The government has rejected a public inquiry, arguing it would suck resources away from MI5. Instead, parliament's intelligence and security committee will review its investigation of the case, which last year cleared MI5 of any culpable failure over the attacks.
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