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MI5 under fire over court verdict

Story Highlights

• Two London bombers were under surveillance a year before July 7 attacks
• Background checks were never carried out on the bombers
By CNN's Andrew Carey, International Security Producer
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britain's internal security agency, MI5, is under fire in the wake of new revelations about the July 7 bombings in London.

Following a verdict in a major terror trial it can be revealed for the first time the extent to which two of the London bombers -- Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer -- had been under surveillance for more than a year before they carried out their attacks.

The two men cropped up in a separate investigation in Britain codenamed Operation Crevice during which they were videotaped and recorded meeting with known terrorist suspects.

On one occasion Khan was taped discussing terrorism with the ringleader of the Crevice plot, Omar Khyam.

On a separate occasion the two London bombers were tracked driving across the south of England stopping at several locations including builder's merchants, a McDonald's restaurant and an Internet cafe.

But proper background checks on the two were never carried out. They were assessed by intelligence officers as would-be fraudsters rather than would-be terrorists.

Indeed MI5 told a Parliamentary investigation into the July 7 bombings it was not aware of Mohammed Siddique Khan's identity until after the attacks took place.

Yet one source familiar with the investigation told CNN that Khan's car was on one occasion tracked back to his home in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. This, the source suggested to CNN, makes MI5's claims it was in the dark over Khan all the more surprising.

The revelations are likely to lead to renewed calls for a public inquiry into the July 7 bombings, something the government has so far resisted setting up.

In a highly unusual move MI5 responded to Monday's developments with a statement on its Web site, addressing what the agency describes as "myths" surrounding its investigations.

Director General Jonathan Evans said in the statement: "I welcome this outcome. It is recognition of the hard work put in by my staff, the police and other agencies, and represents another plot prevented -- one of a growing number of potentially devastating attacks that the Service has stopped.

"The Security Service will never have the capacity to investigate everyone who appears on the periphery of every operation. I believe the account we are publishing here will make this clear." (Click here to see MI5's response to criticismexternal link)

In a statement, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, Head of the MPS Counter Terrorism Command and National Coordinator of Terrorism Investigations, said: "This case marked a new stage in our understanding of the threat posed by al Qaeda to this country.

"We now know that two of the people who attacked London on July 7, 2005 met with Khyam's group during the Operation Crevice surveillance operation. They were not part of that plot, and at that time were not a threat to public safety.

"In every case, and Operation Crevice was no exception, decisions have to be made as to who poses a threat to the public, and how resources should be used.

"It is a grave disappointment and a matter of great regret to everyone involved in counter-terrorism that we were not able to prevent the attack on 7th July 2005. What this case and others in the future will show is that we are dealing with a threat posed by interlinked networks of terrorists."


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