7/7 bomb plot leads not pursued, inquest hears
Ringleader could have been identified as an active threat months before attack had MI5 chosen to investigate intelligence
MI5 could have identified the ringleader of the 7 July attacks as a trained jihadist four months before the bombings, it has admitted, but for reasons that it refuses to disclose it decided not to investigate a crucial piece of intelligence.
A senior officer told the inquests into the victims of the atrocity of his "high degree of confidence" that Mohammad Siddique Khan could have been identified as a significant threat in March 2005, if agents had chosen to investigate intelligence that two men, called Saddique and Imran from Batley in Leeds, had trained in Afghanistan in the late 1990s.
Khan, from Batley, was the leader of the suicide bomb plot in July 2005 in which 52 people were murdered; he was known to friends as Siddique and was identified after the bombings as the first man.
It was decided not to pursue the lead, however, for "proportionate and reasonable" motives, said the man, giving evidence anonymously as "Witness G", adding that the explanation could not be disclosed for national security reasons.
The source of the information supplied a surname for Saddique. That name has not been released but was not Khan.
"So you could have found out who Saddique Not-Khan was, but for good reason no steps were taken in that direction?" asked Hugo Keith QC, lead counsel to the inquests.
"I have a high degree of confidence that we could have done," said Witness G.
"If this person had been identified as Mohammad Siddique Khan and he had come under intensive surveillance thereafter, then there would have been a greater chance that whatever he was plotting might have come to light?" asked Keith.
"Yes, a greater chance," replied the witness, adding that this would have required "… a degree of surveillance [that] would not have appeared to be proportionate".
The inquests have heard that at this stage the security services had a number of pieces of intelligence linking Khan to extremists or plotters, but, suggested Keith, this "single strand of intelligence that could have identified him as capable of carrying out a martyrdom operation" had offered the "greatest chance" of identifying him.
Witness G replied that he believed the evidence of an informant, Mohammed Junaid Babar, had been more significant. Babar had told agents in the US, where he was in custody, that he had met two men, Ibrahim and Zubair, with a known radical in Pakistan.
Initially, said Witness G, the men were considered to be "jihadi tourists", where "individuals go to Pakistan to have a look and see what's going on". After the attacks, Ibrahim was found to be another pseudonym for Khan.
On Monday, the inquests also heard that surveillance images of Khan and fellow bomber Shehzad Tanweer were so badly cropped before being sent to Babar that Khan was removed and Tanweer rendered unrecognisable. The inquests continue.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/feb/2 ... b-plot-mi5