July 7 leader 'slipped out of intelligence net'

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair is facing renewed calls for a full independent inquiry into the July 7 bomb attacks on London after a leaked report by MPs found that the bombers' ringleader slipped through the intelligence net.

Conservatives called for a senior independent figure to investigate how Mohammad Sidique Khan's terror links were not fully investigated. They also demanded reform of the system for assessing threat levels, amid concerns that they were downgraded immediately before the July 7 and July 21 attacks last year.

The row reopened yesterday after leaks of a report into the attacks by the all-party Intelligence and Security Committee. Drafts of the report are thought to have been sent to MI5 and MI6 for "fact checking", although no final version has been produced.

The report is thought to say the intelligence services are not to blame for the tragedy, but criticises the lack of intelligence on British radicals in Pakistan.It is also thought to criticise the system of threat alerts, which were downgraded from "critical" after 7 July to "severe general" on 21 July.

Downing Street refused to comment on the reports and hinted at an inquiry into the leak of the MPs' findings.

Khan, a 30-year-old classroom assistant, is thought to have recruited and led the July 7 suicide bombers, who killed 52 people and injured 700. His name emerged during an investigation into an alleged bombing plot by Islamists, but Scotland Yard and MI5 decided that although Khan had some links with militant Muslim groups he was a "peripheral" figure. It was decided that tightly stretched resources should not be spent putting him under surveillance.

Police and the Security Service (MI5) simply did not have enough Asian operatives to carry out operations in predominantly Asian areas. Security agencies also appeared to be unaware of the threat posed by militant British Muslims.

Home Office officials have been questioning senior figures from MI5, MI6 and foreign security agencies to piece together a detailed "narrative", seeking to answer whether the impending attacks were missed and to give an idea about the motivation of the men involved.

Patrick Mercer, the Tories' Homeland Security spokesman, said a full independent inquiry headed by a senior figure such as a former Northern Ireland or defence secretary was now needed to establish whether the security services had sufficient resources to combat the growing threat from homegrown terrorism. He said: "We are not in the business of apportioning blame ... If there are lessons from what happened to Mohammed Sidique Khan we need to know." He added: "The system of warnings is chaotic. Clearly the intelligence services knew little about an impending attack. The system has got to be simplified and made more open, otherwise it is useless."

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "This leaked report appears to be a helpful guide for improvements ... which we can only hope will be adopted by the security services."