Times : British trio cleared of helping to plan 7/7 London attacks

Friday, May 29, 2009

British trio cleared of helping to plan 7/7 London attacks

David Brown | April 28, 2009

Three British Muslims were cleared today of helping to plan terrorist attacks on London that killed 52 people and injured almost 1,000.

Waheed Ali, Mohammed Shakil and Sadeer Saleem are the only people to have been prosecuted over Britain's first suicide bomb attacks, on July 7, 2005

They were accused of carrying out a reconnaissance mission to identify targets for the 7/7 gang but were found not guilty of conspiracy to cause explosions after a three-month trial at Kingston Crown Court.

Ali and Shakil were convicted of planning to attend a terrorist training camp when they were arrested on their way to Manchester Airport for a flight to Pakistan in March 2007.

Senior police officers have admitted that no one else is likely to be charged in connection with the London attacks despite evidence that other people were involved.

Andy Hayman, Britain’s most senior anti-terrorism police officer at the time of the attacks, told The Times: “We must respect the verdict of the jury but, rather than it starting to bring a small degree of closure, we are instead left with a deep sense of emptiness.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Mohammed Sidique Khan and the other three bombers had significant assistance from other people in this country and overseas.”

Mr Ali, 25, Mr Shakil, 33, and Mr Saleem, 28, admitted that they had been committed jihadists and had previously attended training camps in Pakistan. They insisted that they had no knowledge of the planned attacks on London and said that it was against their faith to attack civilians.

The men – all from Beeston, Leeds – travelled to London in December 2004 with two of the 7/7 gang, Jermaine Lindsay and Hasib Hussain. During the two-day trip they visited the Natural History Museum, the London Eye and the London Aquarium, as well as the eventual targets chosen for the attacks.

The men insisted that they had visited to capital so that Ali could see his sister before flying to Pakistan to join a terrorism training camp. They said that they were sightseeing.

Seven months later their friends detonated explosives on three packed Tube trains and a bus at the height of the morning rush hour.

Hussain killed 13 passengers on a bus in Tavistock Square and Lindsay killed 26 people on a Piccadilly Line train at Russell Square.

Mohammad Sidique Khan killed six people on a Circle Line train at Edgware Road and Shezhad Tanweer killed seven people at Aldgate.

Mr Justice Gross had told the jury that they should not convict the men simply because they were outraged by the events of July 7 and could not punish the dead bombers.

A previous jury last year failed to reach verdicts on the charges of conspiracy to cause explosions.

Today’s acquittals after two trials estimated to have cost at least £5 million will lead to renewed calls for a public inquiry into events leading up to the 7/7 attacks.

The Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, which had previously defended the failure to identify the bombers before they struck, has completed a report that is expected to be more critical of the missed opportunities to stop the attacks.

Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 gang, his fellow bomber Shezhad Tanweer and Ali had appeared four times in M15 surveillance more than a year before the attacks.

They were spotted after meetings with another terrorist gang in Crawley, West Sussex. But the jury was not told that the other gang planned to attack a London shopping centre or nightclub with a massive fertiliser-based bomb.

Ali, who was born in Bangladesh, boasted in court that his “ultimate aim” was to fight coalition forces in Afghanistan and kill British soldiers. He described civilian deaths as “collateral damage”.

He attended a jihadist training camp in Pakistan with Khan in 2001 and both men served with the Taleban in Afghanistan for two weeks. He attended another jihad camp in Pakistan from December 2004 to March 2005.

Shakil, also a father of three, was born in Pakistan. He had worked with Mohammad Sidique Khan as a youth leader at the Hardy Street Mosque in Beeston.

He attended a jihad training in Kashmir in 1999 and in 2003 travelled to Pakistan with Khan to take part in another camp, were they met members of the fertliser-bomb gang.

Attendance at a terrorism training camp abroad was made illegal by the Terrorism Act 2006.