FBI 'gave prior warning to Britain about 7/7 bomber'
The Scotsman | February 9 2006
By JAMES KIRKUP
FURTHER evidence suggesting that British security forces were alerted in advance to the danger posed by the leader of the London suicide bombers emerged yesterday.
Reports in the United States indicated American law enforcement officers had raised concerns with their British counterparts over Mohammad Sidique Khan, believed to have led the 7 July attacks.
According to the New York Daily News, the FBI told British officials well before the bombings that Khan "was trouble" and should be "checked out".
The information passed on by the FBI is said to have come from a Pakistani-born al-Qaeda supergrass, who is currently in protective custody having pleaded guilty to a range of terrorist charges in the US. The informant cannot be named in Britain because he is alleged to be connected to men about to stand trial in London charged with terrorist offences.
Some critics have suggested the British authorities' prior knowledge of Khan shows that the July attacks, which killed 52 people as well as the four bombers, were the result of an intelligence failure.
Chuck Schumer, a US senator, likened the situation to the events before the 11 September, 2001 attacks on American cities by men who were known to the CIA. "This is the British version of pre-9/11, where a country receives a generalised warning and ignores it with terrible consequences," he said.
British security sources say the reality is that Khan was not "ignored". They say that MI5 has already told ministers that officers did, indeed, monitor Khan in 2004, as he was an associate of one of the men about to stand trial in London. At that time, MI5 officers judged the considerable costs of the surveillance operation were not justified by a man whose criminal activities were believed to be limited to shoplifting.
While the US report largely supports previously-known facts about British intelligence before the July attacks, it could also provide clues about how the investigation into those attacks is proceeding.
If proven, a connection between Khan and the US-based informant would be more evidence of the international dimension of the July plot, and the much-theorised role of the al-Qaeda network. MI5's continuing investigation into the July attacks is now firmly focused on Pakistan.
Last night a senior French intelligence chief claimed the UK failed to take action against radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza for years, despite evidence that he was involved in terrorism.
Christophe Chaboud, director of France's national anti-terrorism co-ordination unit (UCLAT), said evidence implicating Hamza was passed on from French intelligence. He said Hamza sent dozens of people from Finsbury Park mosque to terror training camps in Afghanistan.
He said: "We thought it would have been necessary to take action, to arrest and prosecute him." A report in today's Guardian newspaper claimed France was so concerned that it ran undercover missions with the mosque as the target.
Last modified February 9, 2006