Tuesday, May 01, 2007


5 Britons Guilty; Tied to 2005 London Bombers

LONDON, April 30 — A jury found five British Muslim men guilty on Monday of planning fertilizer-bomb attacks around London, ending a yearlong trial that linked the plotters with two of the four men who blew themselves up on London’s transit system in July 2005.

According to the evidence, revealed during the trial but made public for the first time on Monday, authorities had closely monitored meetings in 2004 between members of the two plots but never fully investigated the men who pulled off the transit attacks, which killed 56 people. To ensure a fair trial, the judge had ordered the news media not to make the information public until after the verdict.

The disclosure turned a victory for British authorities into a day of hand-wringing and recriminations over whether they had missed an opportunity to prevent the deadliest terrorist attack in the country’s history.


The connection between the two groups, both in Britain and Pakistan, pointed to a level of organization among terrorist cells here that initially had been seen as “homegrown” and independent.

The two 2005 suicide bombers, like four of the five men convicted Monday, were British citizens of Pakistani origin. At least some of the men in both plots were trained at military camps in Pakistan that were suspected of having connections to Al Qaeda operatives.


For its part, MI5, the domestic intelligence agency, a famously secretive organization, went public to defend itself, saying on its Web site on Monday that it had never been “complacent” in investigating the 2005 transit attacks.

Last week, the head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, retired and was replaced by Jonathan Evans, a Qaeda specialist. The agency said the change was unrelated to the disclosures from the investigation, which the authorities named Operation Crevice.

That law enforcement authorities knew of a connection between the two groups is especially embarrassing because three days after the 2005 attacks, Charles Clarke, then the Home Secretary, said they “simply came out of the blue.”


The ringleader, Omar Khyam, 25, an ardent cricket player, grew up in a secular Muslim household in West Sussex, just outside London. He turned to radical Islam in high school and trained in guerrilla warfare in Pakistan. He was said by the prosecution’s star witness to have bragged about working for a senior Al Qaeda figure.

Also found guilty in the conspiracy were Anthony Garcia, 24; Waheed Mahmood, 35; Jawad Akbar, 23; and Salahuddin Amin, 32.


The surveillance evidence brought to light in the trial — including hours of audio tapes — showed that Mr. Khyam, the leader of the plot, had met several times with the leader of what have become known as the 7/7 attacks, Mohammad Sidique Khan.

According to court papers, four Crevice defendants, including Mr. Khyam, trained at the same camp in Malakand, Pakistan, as did Mr. Khan. Initially driven to raise money and fight for the cause of jihad on faraway battlefields like Kashmir or Afghanistan, the Crevice plotters ended up planning attacks at home, prosecutors charged.

Mr. Khyam said Pakistan’s intelligence agency was involved in running training camps focusing on Kashmir that he attended in 2000. In one of the trial’s most dramatic moments, Mr. Khyam abruptly broke off his testimony to say that Pakistan’s intelligence agency had contacted his family in Pakistan and intimidated them. He did not offer any proof.

That organization, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, is supposed to be one of Pakistan’s crucial organizations in helping the United States hunt down Al Qaeda.

Another Crevice defendant, Salahuddin Amin, told the jury that he had been held for 10 months by the Pakistani intelligence agency and subjected to torture.

He confessed only after being physically and mentally abused by the Pakistanis, he said. A videotape was played during the trial of Mr. Amin telling the British police of the Crevice plot immediately after he was brought back to Britain from Pakistan.

Overall, Scotland Yard said the Crevice operation involved thousands of police and intelligence officers and a huge effort of telephone bugging, human surveillance and videotaping.

It was that surveillance web that also picked up the two July 7 plotters: Mr. Khan and Shehzad Tanweer. Britain’s MI5 domestic intelligence service followed the two men, photographed them and even listened in on Mr. Khan’s conversations.

But the agents never fully investigated either of them, deciding they were not a terrorist threat but rather “petty fraudsters in loose contact with members of the plot,” MI5 said Monday on its Web site.

On a number of occasions in February and March 2004, MI5 agents monitored Mr. Khan and Mr. Tanweer interacting with the Crevice suspects, according to pretrial closed testimony and the judge’s ruling.

Investigators monitored the Crevice suspects so closely that they had placed a bug in Mr. Khyam’s car.

In the most telling conversation in Mr. Khyam’s car, on Feb. 21, 2004, Mr. Khan gave the impression that Mr. Khyam was a more senior operative than he.

“Are you really a terrorist?” Mr. Khan asked Mr. Khyam, according to a transcript of the conversation read in court.

Mr. Khyam replied, “They are working with us.”

To that, Mr. Khan asked again, “You are serious, you are basically?”

“I am not a terrorist; they are working through us,” Mr. Khyam said.

Mr. Khan replied, “Who are? There is no one higher than you.”

The exchange has raised questions about whether the group was receiving guidance and support from another group or individuals, perhaps Al Qaeda operatives based in Pakistan.


After the Crevice arrests, Mr. Khan attended two other military training camps in Pakistan before carrying out the 2005 bombings. But since he was not under surveillance, his movements went unnoticed.

The prosecution’s star witness in the Crevice trial was Mohammed Junaid Babar, a Pakistani American who was arrested in New York and agreed to a plea bargain in exchange for his testimony.

He told the court that he was present at the Malakand camp with the Crevice defendants and Mr. Khan. But he testified that he was shown a photograph of Mr. Khan after the July 7 bombings and told the police he recognized him as “Ibrahim” from the Malakand camp.

During his testimony, Mr. Babar, who was attacked as a liar by the defense, said that Mr. Khyam had told him that he and the other “brothers” were not just a local operation but that they reported to a man he described as the No. 3 in Al Qaeda, Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi.

American officials said it was possible that he is the same man who they acknowledged last week was in custody at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. It was plausible, they said, that he had met some of the Crevice plotters when they visited training camps in Pakistan. But the officials said it was unclear exactly what role, if any, Mr. Iraqi had played in planning either the Crevice plot or the 2005 attacks.

Mr. Babar said that Mr. Khyam told him that Mr. Iraqi gave the orders on how they should behave on their Malakand pilgrimage. The camp was a formative experience, he said. “Prior to the camp, the guys were joking around and using slang,” he said. “After the camp, the guys were talking jihad, praying and quoting the Koran. They were saying, ‘Let’s go kill’ ” the infidel.


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