MI5 probe 'could have hit jackpot'

MI5 could have "hit the jackpot" of learning the 7/7 ringleader was a committed jihadist if it had followed the intuition of one of its officers, an inquest heard today.

Two months before the July 7 2005 London bombings, a member of the Security Service flagged up information that could have identified a British man who received terrorist training in Pakistan as Mohammed Sidique Khan.



Patrick O'Connor QC, counsel for the families of those killed in the attacks, suggested MI5 could have made the link simply by trawling through an airline passenger list.



"Then you come across Mohammed Sidique Khan and you've hit the jackpot," he said.



But a senior MI5 officer, identified only as Witness G, said it would have been "unusual" to follow up the lead because a key informant had already failed to identify Khan.



In early 2004 counter-terrorism officers watched, followed and photographed Khan, 30, and his deputy, Shehzad Tanweer, 22, travelling from Leeds to meet a group of extremists planning a fertiliser bomb attack, but did not fully identify them at the time.



Separately, MI5 received information from al-Qa'ida supergrass Mohammed Junaid Babar in April 2004 that two men from West Yorkshire called "Ibrahim" and "Zubair" had travelled to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan the previous year.



Babar was shown surveillance pictures of Khan and Tanweer in August 2004 but failed to identify them, and it was only confirmed after the 7/7 attacks that "Ibrahim" was Khan.



Investigators discovered "Ibrahim" had breakfast at Islamabad airport in Pakistan with a member of the fertiliser bomb plot called Jawad Akbar on July 25 2003, the inquest heard.



Mr O'Connor suggested MI5 would have come up with Khan's name if they had checked the passenger manifest of the flight from the UK taken by Akbar.



Witness G replied simply: "I can see your logic."



In May 2005 a Security Service officer flagged up the Leeds-based men - including Khan and Tanweer - seen meeting the fertiliser bomb plotters as possible candidates for "Ibrahim" and "Zubair", the inquest heard.



Witness G said: "That was an intuition by the desk officer at the time, who remembered the northern figures who had been in Crevice."



Mr O'Connor put it to him: "Do you agree, if that intuition had been taken this one step further of trawling through Jawad Akbar's flight, one would have reached the jackpot?"



The senior MI5 officer replied: "If it had worked out in that way, yes.



"It would have been unusual to work further on that intuition because of the strong contra-indication that the men referred to as the three Leeds-based individuals had been shown to Mohammed Junaid Babar and to the second detainee, who had not identified them."









MI5 bugged fertiliser bomb plot leader Omar Khyam boasting that he had four terrorist cells, any of which could carry out an attack if one failed, the inquest heard.



Mr O'Connor suggested that Khan and Tanweer could have been one of these cells and argued that the 7/7 bombings might have been thwarted if they had been put under extensive surveillance.



Khyam was bugged on February 20 2004, apparently talking to a Canadian bomb expert called Mohammed Momin Khawaja who had flown over to visit him.



A Security Service monitoring note from the time recorded that he said: "One cell goes down won't affect other one, we've got four. Don't mix people up."



Police and MI5 voiced fears about these comments at executive liaison group (ELG) meetings to share intelligence about the investigation into the plot, known as Operation Crevice.



The ELG report for February 21 2004 noted: "It is a real possibility that planning for more than one device is under way."



The inquest is looking at whether MI5 could have drawn together intelligence about Khan and Tanweer's links with extremists and established that they were planning mass murder before the 7/7 attacks.



Mr O'Connor suggested that the Security Service should have made "proper assessments" of the pair after they made a series of trips from their homes in Leeds to meet Khyam in Crawley, West Sussex.



He said: "I suggest greater measures could and should have been taken against particularly Mohammed Sidique Khan, including monitoring his travel and taking possible intrusive authorised intelligence measures against him after his return from Pakistan and successfully thwarting the 7/7 bombings in 2005."



Witness G replied: "I believe that proper assessments were made.



"I continue to judge there's no evidence or intelligence - an enormous amount of work has been done for both the Crevice plotters and the 7/7 plotters - to suggest they were or even aspirationally considering involvement in the Crevice plan in 2004."









The July 7 2005 bombings on three Tube trains and a bus carried out by Khan, Tanweer, Hasib Hussain, 18, and Jermaine Lindsay, 19, were the worst single terrorist atrocity on British soil.



As well as killing themselves and 52 others, the bombers injured more than 700 people.



The inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice in London was adjourned until tomorrow.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Déjà vu: David Tennant returns to familiar territory with Anna Gunn (‘Breaking Bad’)
tvReview: Something is missing in Gracepoint, and it's not just the familiar names
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing boutique prac...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?