Britain's MI5 faces probe over 2005 suicide bombings
Inquests into the deaths of 56 people in London's July 2005 suicide bombings will probe alleged failings by police and MI5 intelligence before the attacks, a judge said Friday.
A coroner also ruled that inquests into four suicide bombers will be held separately from those of the 52 victims, a relief to families who had protested plans to hold the inquests together.
The suicide bombers set off near-simultaneous explosions on three London Underground trains and a double-decker bus on the morning of July 7, 2005, in what has become known as 7/7, nearly four years after the 9/11 attacks.
Coroner Heather Hallett, giving details of arrangements for the inquests due to start in October, said they would probe what police and MI5 officers knew ahead of the shock attacks.
"The scope of the inquest into the 52 deaths will include the alleged intelligence failings and the immediate aftermath of the bombings," she said.
"To my mind it is not too remote to investigate what was known in the year or two before the alleged bombings. Plots of this kind are not developed overnight," she added.
She also announced that the inquests will not be held with a jury, and that the hundreds of people injured in the attacks will not be designated "interested person" status, which has been granted to relatives of victims.
"I am sure however that the survivors, despite not being granted interested persons status, will play an important part in the process. I will do all I can to make sure their interests are properly taken into account," she said.
"Interested persons" have the right to cross-examine witnesses at inquests.
The 7/7 attacks struck during the rush hour on a Thursday morning, as British Prime Minister Tony Blair was meeting with Group of Eight (G8) counterparts for a summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.
It later emerged that intelligence services had followed the bombers' ringleader, Mohammad Sidique Khan, in early 2004 during an investigation into extremists planning a fertiliser bomb plot.
Two weeks after July 7 there was an apparent attempt at a copycat simultaneous attack, but the devices involved failed to go off. In the rush to find the plotters police mistakenly shot and killed an innocent Brazilian man.
© 2010 AFP