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, the coroner conducting the hearings said Friday.
Judge Heather Hallett 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 in the United States.
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.
Janine Mitchell, whose husband Paul survived the King's Cross explosion, welcomed the decision to probe MI5's role.
"We have been very concerned that there were serious failings and it seems that this is the case... We are relieved that someone independent of Government is going to examine what happened.
"We put all our faith in the coroner to do that, so if anything did go wrong it can be fixed."
Hallett 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 -- granting the right to cross-examine witnesses.
Survivors of the bombings voiced disappointment. "Once again we have been shunted aside by officialdom and those questions may or may not be answered," said Jacqui Putnam, who survived the Edgware Road blast.
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.
Three bombs exploded shortly after 8:50 am: Mohammad Sidique Khan, 30, blew himself up at Edgware Road station, 22-year-old Shehzad Tanweer at Aldgate, and Jermaine Lindsay, 19 between King's Cross and Russell Square.
Hasib Hussain, 18, detonated his device on board a number 30 bus at Tavistock Square at 9.47 am. As well as the dead, some 700 people were injured in the blasts.
It later emerged that intelligence services had followed the bombers' ringleader, Khan, in early 2004 during an investigation into extremists planning a fertiliser bomb plot.
As well as interrupting the G8 meeting in Scotland, the bombings also shattered a sense of euphoria in London from a decision the previous day to stage the 2012 Olympic Games in the British capital.
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