MI5 denies blunder over Israeli embassy bombing

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Allegations by a former MI5 officer that warnings were ignored days before an attack on the Israeli embassy in London were refuted yesterday by the Home Secretary and the head of the Security Service.

David Shayler, who is under police investigation for breaking the Official Secrets Act, says the Security Service failed to act on a report that the embassy was about to be attacked. A car-bomb injured 13 people and damaged the embassy, in Kensington Palace Gardens, London, in 1994 as part of an attempt to destabilise the Middle East peace process. In a second blast, at a London office-block used by Jewish charities, six people were injured.

Mr Shayler says an MI5 officer failed to act on information provided by a highly trusted source who warned of a imminent attack on the embassy. Days after the explosion the warning details were discovered in a filing- cabinet, it is claimed.

Jack Straw, Home Secretary, and Stephen Lander, head of MI5, last week agreed to lift an order banning publication of Mr Shayler's allegations in the Mail on Sunday, saying claims about the embassy were false and therefore not damaging to security. It is understood MI5 did receive various intelligence suggesting the embassy was a likely target after a similar attack in Argentina a week earlier, but there were no specific details. Government sources denied they had information about the bombing and ignored it. It is understood the Security Service contacted Mossad, the Israeli agency, to assure them it did not blunder over protection of the London embassy.

Mr Straw said: "Having discussed with the Security Service the allegations ... I can say that it is not the case that such information as it possessed would have enabled the service to prevent the Israeli embassy bombing." A government source added: "Shayler seems to have obtained a mistaken impression. He was not working in the relevant part of the office at the time of the incident. This story must be based on gossip." The source added that while the allegations were potentially damaging for MI5's reputation, this was not a reason to block them. Mr Shayler has already revealed that thousands of outdated files were being kept by the Security Services, including information about Mr Straw and Peter Mandelson, Minister without Portfolio. Mr Shayler is somewhere on the Continent.