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7/7 report faults terror planning

MPs committee 'concerned more was not done sooner'

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Paul Dudge helps victim Davina Turrell to safety at Edgware Road station after the attacks on July 7.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- If more resources had been in place sooner there would have been a greater chance of preventing the July 7 Tube and bus bombings in London, an official report says.

British security services had come across two men who went on to carry out the UK's worst-ever terrorist atrocity but did not believe them to be urgent threats, the report by the House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee said.

The report said it was likely the two bombers had links with al Qaeda -- though the extent of al Qaeda involvement in the bombings remained unclear.

A second official government report giving details of events said that the London bombers were indoctrinated by "personal contact and group bonding" and one was strongly influenced by a known extremist preacher.

The chances of preventing the July 7 attacks, which killed 52 people and wounded 700 others, might have been greater had different investigative decisions been made by Britain's security services, the MPs committee report said.

"Greater coverage in Pakistan, or more resources generally in the UK, might have alerted the agencies to the intention of the July 7 group.

"We are concerned that more was not done sooner."

The report also recommended a more transparent threat level and alert system in Britain.

British intelligence services had been expected to come under a fresh barrage of criticism. The nation had received reliable warnings that an attack of this nature was not a case of if but when.

The MPs report was published as the security service MI5 announced that it was suspending its work on serious crime cases to focus its resources on preventing international terrorism, the UK's Press Association reported.

Michael Henning, a broker from Kensington, west London, who survived one of the bombings, told PA it was a "scandal" lack of resources may have allowed the attacks to happen.

Mohammed Sidique Khan, the ringleader of the four suicide bombers who carried out the attacks on London's public transport system, was not fully investigated despite being known to security officials.

Soon after the attacks it emerged that Khan had been under surveillance by British intelligence. But MI5 officers assigned to investigate him were diverted to another anti-terrorist operation.

MI5 is Britain's domestic spy service; MI6 is the UK's Secret Intelligence Service.

The report confirmed that Khan, a former classroom assistant from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, was known to the security service before July last year.

However, it said his true identity had not been revealed and it was only after the attacks that the service was able to identify Khan.

It had come across Khan, 30, and another of the bombers Shehzad Tanweer, 22, on the periphery of other surveillance operations.

However, the report said: "As there were more pressing priorities at the time, including the need to disrupt known plans to attack the UK it was decided not to investigate them further or seek to identify them.

"When resources became available attempts were made to find out more about these two and other peripheral contacts but these resources were soon diverted back to what were considered to be higher investigative priorities."

The report said Khan and Tanweer "likely had some contact" with members of the al Qaeda terror network. But it dismissed theories of a fifth bomber or a terrorist "mastermind" who may have subsequently fled Britain.

Khan and Tanweer were known to have travelled to Pakistan, the report said. "Current thinking in the intelligence community (although investigations continue) is that there was some contact with al Qaeda figures, possibly while they were in Pakistan."

In a video statement released after his death, Khan hailed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as a hero and said attacks would go on as long as "atrocities" were committed against Muslims.

The chances of uncovering plans for the attack and preventing the bombings might have been greater had different decisions been taken by the service between 2003 and 2005, the report concluded.

However, it added: "Nonetheless we conclude that in light of the other priority investigations being conducted and the limitations on security services resources the decisions not to give greater investigative priority to these two individuals were understandable."

The MPs report stressed that "lessons had been learned."

"We're employing more people now in the intelligence services," says security analyst, Steve Park.

"We know that MI5 and MI6 are recruiting at the moment, they're taking on thousands of people for all different types of jobs and those jobs are to specifically look at people like Sidique Kahn, who quite frankly, shouldn't be able to walk on the streets of London without somebody knowing where he is."

In looking at how intelligence agencies could not have suspected their plans, the MP's report had been expected to cite a lack of resources.

"Four years after 9/11, two years after the UK's entry to the Iraq war, why didn't we have enough surveillance people and if we didn't have enough surveillance people was there not something else we could have done, for instance why were the uniform police in the home towns of these men not alerted,?" asked former government intelligence analyst Crispin Black.

Two questions expected to be raised about the July 7 attacks were:

  • Why was the national terror alert system lowered from severe general to substantial just before the attacks?
  • Why was not one single arrest made in connection with the bombings?
  • "It may be that they carried out the bombing independently of al Qaeda. It may be that they're not connected to anybody. It may be they made the bombs themselves and delivered them, but the idea that they did it with no other support is not one I think is credible," says Black.

    The intelligence service MI5 argues there is nothing more it could have done to stop the bombers, and both of Thursday's reports had been expected to conclude that while there was clearly a failure of intelligence, no single agency or individual is to blame.

    CNN's Paula Hancocks contributed to this report

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