Officials: Bin Laden knew of 7/7 attacks in advance

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The Independent Online

Osama bin Laden had detailed advance knowledge of the 7 July bombings in London in 2005 and the failed attempt to blow up transatlantic passenger jets the following year, American security officials say.

After sifting through evidence in the Abbottabad compound where Bin Laden was shot dead in May, investigators from the United States said evidence points towards the al-Qa'ida chief being "immersed in the operational details" of the terror attacks.

But they added that al-Qa'ida's bombing of London Underground trains and a bus, the largest terrorist attack in Britain to date, was the last time the Saudi militant had partial oversight of a successful operation. Speaking anonymously to Reuters, security officials described a man in hiding and on the run, but one who continued to have a hand in planning operations more than four years after the attacks on 11 September 2001.

Although the allegations cannot be independently verified, they mark the first time that US officials have suggested a direct link between Bin Laden and the 7/7 attacks.

Britain's security forces had already uncovered evidence that the ringleader, Mohammed Siddique Khan, had been in contact with al-Qa'ida's core leadership during his time at training camps in Pakistan. But there has been little evidence proving whether Bin Laden had a direct role. The officials told Reuters that the evidence against Bin Laden was largely circumstantial and contained no "smoking gun" facts.

But they insisted the al-Qa'ida chief had advance knowledge of the 7 July attacks and the transatlantic bomb plot. "Bin Laden was absolutely a detail guy," one official was quoted as saying. "We have every reason to believe that he was aware of al-Qa'ida's major plots during the planning phase, including the airline plot in 2006 and the London 7/7 attacks."

The officials said there is strong evidence, including material collected from Bin Laden's compound, indicating that, as the London-based plots unfolded, Bin Laden was in close contact with other al-Qa'ida militants. "We believe that he was aware of these plots ahead of time," one official said.