July 7 leader Sidique Khan encountered security services 10 times before bombings
The leader of the July 7 bombers, Mohammed Sidique Khan, was surveilled by police and MI5 ten times before the launch of the attacks but he was never considered a serious threat, a new report has revealed.
By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent
Last Updated: 10:22AM BST 20 May 2009
The parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) said MI5 lacked the resources to follow up 60 per cent of its suspects and Sidique Khan was not classified as an "essential" target.
Despite their findings, the ISC said there was nothing that MI5 could have done to stop the attacks, prompting calls from politicians, including Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, for a public inquiry.
Rachel North, who survived the attacks on London and represents a group of 25 other families, said there should be an inquiry similar to the 9/11 Commission.
The ISC, which is appointed by the Prime Minister, launched a second inquiry into the July 2005 attacks after criticism that its report three years ago was missing essential details.
It later emerged that two of the bombers, Mohamed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, had appeared four times in a surveillance operation which led to the arrest of an al-Qaeda cell led by Omar Khyam that was planning a fertiliser bomb attack on the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent and the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London.
The new report, "Could 7/7 have been prevented?," reveals a wealth of additional details about what the police and security service knew about the bomber.
Sidique Khan's name first appeared when he gained a police record in 1993 for assault and although his photograph was taken West Yorkshire Police, they were unaware that he went on to be connected with terrorists.
He was caught in a surveillance operation as early as 2001 when a group of 40 men were photographed at a training camp organised by two known extremists.
The men were videoed by officers from West Yorkshire Police but they were only able to identify nine of the men, which did not include Sidique Khan.
In April 2003, a West Yorkshire Police surveillance team was following a "known extremist" as part of a joint operation with MI5 when Sidique Khan, driving a car registered in his own name, gave one of the men a short lift.
Around the same time, MI5 launched Operation Crevice to investigate a man called Mohammed Quayam Khan, who was described as the "leader of an al-Qaeda facilitation network in the UK."
In July investigations found Quayam Khan had been in contact with a phone registered to Sidique Khan at the Iqra bookshop in Beeston, Leeds, where the July 7 bombers held regular meetings, but MI5 decided there was nothing to suggest he was involved in terrorist activity.
Omar Khyam, thought to be a "courier within the facilitation group," met an "unknown male" in Crawley on February 2 2004 and MI5 followed the man, Sidique Khan, back to his mother-in-law's address in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.
They found the car was registered to a Hasina Patel, Sidique Khan's wife, but, the report said, there was "no evidence to justify further action."
By early February MI5 had realised that Khyam was planning an attack and when the bomb-maker Momin Khawaja, flew in from Canada for a vital meeting with the Crevice gang in Crawley on February 21, Sidique Khan's car was seen in the area, although the report does not mention this.
Sidique Khan reappeared in Crawley on February 28 and the Metropolitan Police followed him back to an address in Batley, West Yorkshire, in order to try and "house" him, the report said.
MI5 ran more detailed checks this time, resulting in an address where the Honda Civic was insured, but decided Sidique Khan might be using an alias because there were various different spellings of his name.
On March 23, he met the Crevice gang for a last time, when he was using a courtesy car because his vehicle was being repaired.
Although Khyam had been one of MI5's "top targets", following his arrest in March, Sidique Khan was not among those prioritised for following up.
MI5 considered Sidique Khan a "small time fraudster" and "minor criminal" but he was among 12 individuals that West Yorkshire Police were asked to follow up in January 2005, although they were not told why he was of interest, the report said.
They also launched a full operation to identify a man called "Ibrahim" who had attended an al-Qaeda training camp with Khyam in Pakistan, sending packs of poor quality copies of surveillance pictures to an American supergrass called Mohammed Junaid Babar on August 12 2004.
He was unable to pick out Sidique Khan, although he did so after the bombings from a newspaper picture.