- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 11, 2006

LONDON — Two of the suicide bombers behind last year’s deadly attacks in London probably had contacts with al Qaeda — but British security lacked resources to stop the plot, two reports said yesterday.

The first detailed accounts of the July 7 bombings cleared the intelligence services of any failings in not preventing Britain’s worst terrorist strike.

At the same time the reports — one by a parliamentary committee and another by the Home Office — highlighted the magnitude of the task they face in foiling such plots.

Four British Muslim extremists killed 52 persons and injured more than 700 when they blew up three London Underground trains and a double-decker bus during the morning rush hour by detonating bombs packed into backpacks.

Two of the men, Siddique Khan, 30, and Shazad Tanweer, 22, had appeared only vaguely on Britain’s intelligence radar beforehand.

They were considered peripheral figures at the time and were not pursued, with agents preoccupied with “more pressing priorities,” the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee said in its 44-page report.

After the bombings, it emerged they had been to Pakistan. Khan visited there in 2003 and again, with Tanweer, between November 2004 and February 2005.

“It has not yet been established who they met in Pakistan, but it is assessed as likely that they had some contact with al Qaeda figures,” the report said — comments echoed in the Home Office document.

The two men, whose identities were established only after July 7, probably received “operational training” there, the report said.

Security officials in Pakistan said yesterday that British and Pakistani investigators were focusing on almost 200 phone calls made from Pakistan to one of the London bombers in an effort to uncover any links to al Qaeda.

British Home Secretary John Reid said there was no “irrefutable evidence” that the terrorist group played a part in the July 7 attacks, which cost less than $15,000 to pull off. “However, there is considerable circumstantial evidence which runs from the fact” that the two men visited Pakistan, he said.

The committee’s report also revealed that a third bomber, Jermaine Lindsay, 19, was unwittingly known to the security services. There was no prior information on the fourth and youngest attacker, 18-year-old Hasib Hussein.

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