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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee