Mark Townsen / The Guardian UK – 2006-04-02 23:16:25
LONDON (April 2, 2006) — The first official recognition that the Iraq war motivated the four London suicide bombers has been made by the government in a major report into the 7 July attacks.
Despite attempts by Downing Street to play down suggestions that the conflict has made Britain a target for terrorists, the Home Office inquiry into the deadliest terror attack on British soil has conceded that the bombers were inspired by UK foreign policy, principally the decision to invade Iraq.
The government’s ‘narrative’, compiled by a senior civil servant using intelligence from the police and security services, was announced by the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, last December following calls for a public inquiry into the attacks.
The narrative will be published in the next few weeks, possibly alongside the findings of a critical report into the London bombings by the Commons intelligence and security committee.
Initial drafts of the government’s account into the bombings, which have been revealed to The Observer, state that Iraq was a key ‘contributory factor’. The references to Britain’s involvement in Iraq are contained in a section examining what inspired the ‘radicalisation’ of the four British suicide bombers, Sidique Khan, Hasib Hussain, Shehzad Tanweer and Germaine Lindsay.
The findings will prove highly embarrassing to Tony Blair, who has maintained that the decision to go to war against Iraq would make Britain safer. On the third anniversary of the conflict last month, the Prime Minister defended Britain’s involvement in Iraq, arguing that only an interventionist stance could confront terrorism.
The narrative largely details the movements of the four bombers from the point when they picked up explosives in a rucksack from a ‘bomb factory’ in Leeds to the time when the devices were detonated on the morning of 7 July.
Alongside Iraq, other ‘motivating factors’ for the bombers, three of whom came from west Yorkshire and one from Buckinghamshire, are identified. These include economic deprivation, social exclusion and a disaffection with society in general, as well as community elders.
A videotape of Mohammed Sidique Khan was released after the attacks, in which he makes an apparent reference to Iraq, accusing ‘Western citizens’ of electing governments that committed crimes against humanity. Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also appeared on the tape, repeating his claim that Blair’s decision to go to war in Iraq was responsible for the outrage.
The Home Office account of the July atrocity also chronicles in detail the trips to Pakistan made by Khan and Shehzad Tanweer and is understood to confirm that the two met al-Qaeda operatives. However, the final report will not name the militants known to some of the London bombers in case criminal proceedings are taken against them.
Leaks last week from the intelligence and security committee similarly confirmed how Khan, the mastermind of July 7, slipped through a security net. MI5 called off surveillance on him in the months before the bombings, in which 52 people were killed.
The Home Office narrative supports the parliamentary committee’s general view that the security services are not to blame. Despite the trips abroad, however, the narrative says that the London suicide bombers were only ever peripheral players in terrorist organisations and that, on the whole, there was ‘nothing exceptional’ about them before the attack.
Recent letters to the Home Office from the law firm Leigh Day & Co — acting for the family of one victim — warned that an independent inquiry was essential to explore ‘what could be done to prevent such attacks happening again, and how to protect and save lives in the future’.
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