My new book, "The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry", was featured in a special Inside Story report in yesterday's Independent on Sunday (p. 22-25). The report by Francis Elliot, winner of the Political Journalist of the Year British Press Award, and Sophie Goodchild, says that my book "pulls apart the official narrative of 7/7":
..... According to the official Whitehall-authored narrative, the four bombs, three on trains, the last on a bus, were the work of a self-radicalised cell working alone on a budget of £8,000. The bombs were home-made. There was no evidence of a mastermind nor of a network, other than a loose, social nebula of radical Islamists.
This "clean skin" version, published in May, was given an apparent parliamentary rubber stamp by a report from the ISC released at the same time. The ISC effectively cleared the intelligence and security services of any failure, asserting that none of the four bombers had been identified as a potential terrorist and that the attack had happened without warning.
Reassuring these reports may be, but they are wrong, according to the respected terror analyst Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, a tutor in international relations and politics at the University of Sussex. His new book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry, pulls apart the official narrative of 7/7, pointing out its gaps and contradictions. He concludes that the security and intelligence services, with government connivance, downplayed the sophistication of the operation and the size and nature of its support network. Evidence of al-Qa'ida involvement is suppressed, he says, to deflect awkward questions about how a large terror network flourished unchecked in Britain for 10 years.
If he is right, the next wave of attacks to hit London is far closer and more violent than is commonly supposed.
There are some bewildering gaps in the Whitehall account of 7/7; even the nature of the explosives used in the bombing is unclear. The report says only that "it appears" they were home-made, although there is plenty of evidence that the bombs were powered by at least some commercial or military explosive.
"Forensic science ... tends to produce unambiguous answers within a matter of hours and days," Mr Ahmed says. "The idea that continuous examination over many months has failed to finish the job beggars belief."
Furthermore, the substance that the bombers were said to have mixed from household products - TATP - produces neither flame nor heat upon detonation. But eyewitnesses reported both.
Then there is the curious official reticence over proven links between the bombers' ringleader, Mohammed Siddique Khan, and other terrorists, including senior al-Qa'ida lieutenants abroad. Officially, it is admitted only that Khan was on the "periphery" of another terror plot currently the subject of court proceedings. In fact, Khan had been placed on a watchlist in 2004. MI5 had opened a file on him. Mr Ahmed claims the three other bombers were all also known to MI5.
The official narrative baldly states: "The extent to which others may have been involved in indoctrinating the group, have known what they were planning, or been involved in the planning, is unknown at this stage."
The ISC report goes a little further, admitting that Khan and Tanweer probably received "some form of operational training" in Pakistan in the months before the attacks. But Mr Ahmed is amazed that this ignores the telephone traffic between Khan and, among others, Haroon Rashid Aswat, an al-Qa'ida lieutenant previously based in Pakistan, believed by US investigators to be the mastermind of 7/7.
Mr Ahmed's controversial inference is that MI5 is now trying to cover up a tacit understanding with terror groups that operated until 9/11. They were allowed to operate as long as they did not bomb Britain or UK targets abroad. There was, in effect, a "covenant of security", he says.
Radicals such as Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza, who did so much to foment violent Islamism in Britain, were used by intelligence services in a disastrous miscalculation, he contends.
"In systematically downplaying the undeniable role of al-Qa'ida in the London bombings, the official account is attempting to draw public attention from the fact British authorities have tolerated the activities of an entrenched and burgeoning network of radical Islamists with terrorist connections for more than a decade," says the analyst......
In the Independent on Sunday's "leading article", the newspaper (p. 33) further quotes my work in support of its call for an independent inquiry:
One year on from the bomb explosions on the London Tube trains and bus that claimed 52 lives, we still know terrifyingly little about how it happened and how likely it is to happen again. The reports that the security services let Mohammed Siddique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 bombers, slip through their fingers do not inspire confidence. The failure to put Khan under surveillance may not have been particularly culpable - it is impossible to assess how important he might have appeared compared to all the other possible threats. But that is the point. Unless there is an independent inquiry into the performance of the intelligence agencies in relation to 7/7, it will be difficult to know to what extent they failed to act on information as they should have.
So far, as we report today, the authorities seem to be unable to answer many of the most basic questions about the 7/7 bombings. The bland official "narrative" says only that "it appears" that the bombs were home-made, yet this is central to the question of whether the plot was the work of a closed cell or a wider network. Equally, it has taken a study by an academic outsider, Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, to assess the extent of the bombers' international terrorist connections. He believes that they had extensive support from al-Qa'ida in Pakistan and suggests that MI5 knew about it.
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