Failings did not contribute to London bombings: inquest

6th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

There is no evidence that the security services could have prevented the 2005 London bombings, a coroner found Friday while warning that changes were necessary to help prevent further such atrocities.

The exhaustive inquests into the deaths of 52 victims of the Al-Qaeda-inspired July 7, 2005 attacks on public transport found that they were all unlawfully killed.

The coroner, judge Heather Hallett, said the evidence "does not justify the conclusion that any failings of any organisation or individual caused or contributed to the deaths".

The inquest heard that the MI5 domestic intelligence agency and the police had a number of opportunities to identify one of the four suicide bombers as a jihadist who had attended training camps in Pakistan.

But Hallett said: "There is simply no evidence at all, that the Security Service knew of, and therefore failed to prevent, the bombings on 7/7."

Though around a third of the victims initially survived the explosions, she found there was nothing more that the emergency services could have done to keep them alive.

"I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that each of them would have died whatever time the emergency services reached and rescued them," she said.

The verdicts and recommendations were given to a packed courtroom at the Royal Courts of Justice in London following nearly five months of hearings which examined the attacks in detail, shedding new light on the worst terror atrocity on British soil.

Over 73 days in court, some 309 witnesses gave evidence and a further 197 statements were read. The hearings generated 34,000 documents.

The attacks on three London Underground trains and a bus were perpetrated by four British Islamists, two of whom had made video statements spliced with footage of Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The verdicts came less than a week after the death of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

Hallett made nine recommendations for the intelligence agencies, the emergency services and London's transport authority, aimed at saving lives in future.

Recording the verdicts of "unlawful killing" due to "injuries caused by an explosion", she said the victims were "without a shadow of a doubt" murdered by the four bombers: ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Jermaine Lindsay and Hasib Hussain.

The MI5 domestic intelligence agency and the police had a number of clues which could have helped them identify British-born Khan as an extremist who had received training at a camp in Pakistan.

However, the fragments of intelligence about him were never pieced together. The security services thought he was a small-time fraudster and focused on seemingly more pressing terror threats instead.

"It may have been technically possible... to deduce Khan's sympathies and to identify him and or Tanweer, in intelligence terms, before 7/7," Hallett said.

"However, there are a number of significant flaws in the argument that Khan should have been identified not only as a possible terrorist facilitator but as an attack planner, meriting the closest possible attention.

"It would not be right or fair to criticise the Security Service for the fact they did not pay greater attention" to the pieces of information that related to Khan, she said.

An Al-Qaeda supergrass who had identified Khan as a man he knew as "Ibrahim" who attended a terrorist training camp in Pakistan in 2003 was shown "dreadful" pictures in April 2004, Hallett said, instead of a clear, colour surveillance shot that MI5 took of Khan and Tanweer that February.

Her two recommendations for the security services concerned improving the procedures for showing sources the best images and for recording decisions relating to the assessment of targets.

Adam Chapman, a lawyer for some of the bereaved relatives, said the verdicts went a "long way" towards answering their questions.

Referring to the killing of Bin Laden by US forces, he added: "Today's verdict, coupled with the wider events of this week, will assist my clients in drawing a line under this atrocity, as far as that can be done."

Home Secretary Theresa May said the government would carefully consider Hallett's report.

"Unfortunately, it is not possible to provide a risk-free world and we cannot guarantee that terrorists will never succeed. We must remain vigilant," she added.

© 2011 AFP

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