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Angry young men

By Henry Schuster
CNN

Editor's note: Henry Schuster, a senior producer in CNN's Investigative Unit and author of "Hunting Eric Rudolph," has been covering terrorism for more than a decade. Each week in "Tracking Terror," he reports on people and organizations driving international and domestic terrorism, and efforts to combat them.

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Shehzad Tanweer taped a suicide message months before the attacks.

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(CNN) -- Khalid Kelly is angry, and that ought to worry you.

As we mark the first anniversary of the London bombings and worry about the threat of homegrown terror in the United States, Kelly's story is instructive.

His name alone gives a clue to the conflicting cultures he embodies. Now a London resident, Kelly is Irish Catholic by birth, Muslim by choice. He was an altar boy growing up in Dublin who went to Saudi Arabia several years ago to work as a nurse.

Kelly spent three-and-a-half years partying and carrying on before he landed in prison for brewing his own alcohol, which is illegal in Saudi Arabia under Islamic law. In prison, Kelly embraced Islam, took the name Khalid, and came out -- by his own account -- a changed man.

Fast-forward almost five years, and Khalid Kelly is an angry man. Angrier now, it seems, than he was a year ago, when four young British Muslims brought their holy war to central London, killing 52 people and wounding 700 in four suicide bombings on the city's transit system.

That's when he first came to our attention, though it took almost a year to arrange an interview.

The extremist view

In Kelly's circles, the London attacks were justified, and the belief is that attacks will continue until Britain withdraws its military from Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere else in the Islamic world.

"What happened on 7/7 is a direct consequence of British foreign policy," Kelly told my colleagues Nic Robertson and Paul Cruickshank recently.

Kelly used to belong to al Muhajiroun, a Muslim group branded "extremist" by the British Home Office after two young British-born Muslims who attended Al Muhajiroun meetings went to Israel to become suicide bombers. One succeeded, blowing himself up in the middle of a Tel Aviv nightclub.

Al Muhajiroun disbanded in October 2004, and its supporters went on to form several new groups. Under the umbrella of the Islamic Research Group, they just released their own report on 7/7. Not surprisingly, it echoes Kelly in blaming the British government -- and moderate Muslims who collaborate with it -- for what happened in London on 7/7 and for what it calls the current war on Muslims.

Kelly is blunt about how Muslims should respond.

"[Islam] is not a religion of peace, it is a religion of war at the time of war and peace at the time of peace," he says.

"And at the time when these terrorist atrocities [are] committed against Muslims, it's a religion of terrorism. And it says in the Quran, when the land is occupied, strike terror in heart of the enemy any which way you can."

Dead man talking

A dead man talking echoed Kelly's views. Yet he also raised questions about how homegrown the 7/7 plot actually was.

In a somewhat predictable propaganda ploy, al Qaeda's production company chose the eve of the first anniversary of the 7/7 attacks to release a suicide video from Shehzad Tanweer, one of the London bombers.

It had already released a tape from the suspected ringleader of the plot, Mohammad Sidique Khan, on the eve of last year's 9/11 anniversary, which gives you an idea how al Qaeda equates both events and seeks to exploit them.

"What you have witnessed now is only the beginning of a string of attacks that will continue and become stronger until you pull your forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq," Tanweer says in the video.

The tape seemed designed not only to terrorize, says Assaf Moghadam, a research fellow at Harvard, but also at increasing recruitment for al Qaeda.

The slick, half-hour-long video includes an animation of a subway train racing into a tunnel and exploding; shots of chemicals being poured; a small explosion; someone circling areas of a London map -- even what appear to be jihadists celebrating, possibly after learning of the attack, though the origin of that footage is unclear.

"It is a great instrument to convince Muslims to join. It helps portray the organization as more powerful than it is, and that has an effect on people who will join the group," Moghadam says.

That might be why al Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is shown on the tape praising Tanweer.

Homegrown or not?

The initial concern after the 7/7 bombings was that the four young British Muslims had formed a cell and taken action on their own -- which brought with it the terrifying prospect of homegrown cells acting in the name of al Qaeda but not necessarily at its specific direction.

But a videotape released today claims Khan and Tanweer got explosives training courtesy of al Qaeda. The video's narrator says that Tanweer "received, along with the martyr Sidique Khan, focused and practical instruction on the manufacture of explosives and their use at the camps of Qaeda al-Jihad."

CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen says the suicide tapes, likely recorded when Tanweer and Khan visited Pakistan together between October 2004 and February 2005, also indicate al Qaeda's leadership might have been more deeply involved in the plot.

"The London attacks were a classic al Qaeda operation and not the work of self-starting terrorists, as has been repeatedly suggested in the media," Bergen says.

Another terrorism expert, who asked not to be identified, says though much is still unknown about 7/7, evidence suggests Tanweer and Khan had made up their minds to commit a terrorist act before they went to Pakistan and were probably guided into planning the London bombings while there.

In other words, the homegrown impulses were shaped and guided by others.

What makes the Tanweer and Khan video tapes interesting, beyond their propaganda use, is that like similar tapes from the 9/11 hijackers, they were made months before the young men carried out their horrific deeds.

Moghadam says the act of recording a tape is a crucial way of binding and committing the man to the future act.

"He reaches a point of no return. That is a point where it is psychologically difficult to change. He has for himself decided he is going to die, and he has promised the group he is going to die," Moghadam says.

Which brings us back to 7/7/06 and Khalid Kelly's words. They are threatening, yes, and Kelly will tell you, as he told CNN, that he feels he might soon have to take matters into his own hands.

His anger is something to worry about.

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