The Missing Links in Britain’s 2005 Bombings

Posted: April 22, 2011 in HSToday
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My contribution to the post-Inquest analysis into the July 7 bombing in London, this time for HSToday (looking back, I have been covering this lot since May 2008). This focuses on the training camps element, the group of older radicals around which the group was congregating in Northern England – detail on which has emerged during the Coroner’s Inquest. Lots of interesting information to come out during the hearings, all of which is complicating my book as it has added a whole new wealth of stuff I need to include. More on that soon!

The Missing Links In Britain’s 2005 Bombings

By: Raffaello Pantucci

04/21/2011 (12:00am)

Poring through the mountain of information that’s been published in the wake of British Coroner Lady Justice Hallett’s inquest into the July 7, 2005 bombings in London, many surprising new pieces of the plot puzzle have been revealed. One particularly interesting piece offers insights that US counterterrorism and law enforcement authorities might want to learn from.

It seems that the Islamist community out of which the July 7 team of terrorists emerged drew their inspiration from a group of older radicals who’d fought in jihadist battlefields abroad. This disclosure highlighted the risk that’s posed by older jihadists in radicalizing new generations of fighters, and serves as an important lesson for the United States with regard to leaping to conclusions that condemn entire communities of Muslims.

These plots tend to emerge from particular networks – focusing attention on them is the most productive way to counter terrorism at home.

According to newly published information from Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, and the West Yorkshire Police, July 7 bomber Mohammed Siddique Khan first appeared on counterterrorists’ radar in 2001 during an investigation codenamed Operation Warlock. This was an investigation that had been launched to try to piece together what, exactly, was going on and who was present at an outward-bound terrorist training camp under surveillance in Britain’s rural Lake District.

Khan was photographed as one of the participants, though it was only years later that authorities identified him. One of the trails of evidence that initiated investigation of the jihadist training camp was the activity of an individual named Martin “Abdullah” McDaid, who is a convert to Islam who’d claimed to be a former member of Special Forces. He was one of the organizers of the terrorist training camp, and according to newly released information, he’d been on MI5’s radar since 1998.

Based on intelligence, the West Yorkshire Police identified McDaid and fellow convert, James McClintock, a 44-year-old father of four from Dundee who’d converted to Islam in his 20s and changed his name to Yaqub Mohammed, was apprehended in Afghanistan in Dec. 2001 on suspicion of being a foreign fighter. Dubbed the “Tartan Taliban,” he was released a month later after repeatedly claiming he had no ties to terrorist organizations. He returned to the UK.

McLintock also was detained in Manchester in 2003, but was released without charge. He again was apprehended in early 2009 in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Based on recently released information, McClintock reputedly had achieved a high status among local Muslim communities in Northern England for his involvement in the Afghan war against the Soviets, and later during the conflict in Bosnia.

Fellow Muslim convert, Dr. Rasjid Skinner, a consulting psychologist at Bradford hospital,  told the Times that McClintock’s “reputation preceded him. He was a decent chap and something of a Boys’ Own hero. He was known to have fought the Russians in Afghanistan.”

According to McClintock, he was on his way to Pakistan to meet a friend when he met young Saudi’s on their way to jihad in Afghanistan who persuaded him to join them.

Less is known about McDaid, but one former radical Homeland Security Today interviewed said he recalled meeting McDaid at the Central Mosque in Leeds and found him to be a hard-line salafi-jihadist.

According to a former senior police source, both McDaid and McClintock were figures of interest based on their travel patterns and connections, but that there was never any evidence obtained that would hold up in court. Nevertheless, McDaid’s activities in helping run training camps reputedly was of such concern to one counterterrorist official that in 2002 they leaked the information about him to the Times – though nothing ever came of the tip.

A third organizer was a local Pakistani-Briton named Tafazal Mohammed, also known as “Tafs.” Additionally, there was a reference to a mysterious convert named Max Gillespie, or Abdul Rahman. Both were suspected of not only running the training camps, but having established a series of bookstores in Beeston out which they are suspected of having assisted in running study groups and carrying out respectable social work among the community and developing protest materials for dissemination.

Also part of this web of connections was Mohammed Siddique Khan and his friends, all of whom are reputed to have sought to do more with their lives than the limiting parameters they found in the world around them in an impoverished Leeds suburb. Khan and one of his fellow bombers went so far as to become trustees at one of the bookshops established by Mohammed and Gillespie, though by the time of the bombing they’d moved on.

From the springboard of the network that these men cast, the young radicals moved up the chain to connect with networks in London already in direct contact with Al Qaeda in Pakistan. They were able to go on at least three or four separate trips to Pakistan to train.

While it’s unclear whether it was McDaid, McClintock or “Tafs” who provided the men with the connections, it’s known that a key Al Qaeda facilitator in Luton, a city on London’s outskirts, had called telephone numbers connected to Khan from one of the bookstores that the men had established. This mysterious link to Al Qaeda seems to have been the person who sent Khan and a fellow aspiring jihadist on a “fact finding” mission to Afghanistan in 2003 to supposedly discover the truth of what was happening in the war.

But the real point in all of this is the fact that not only was Khan on the radar of security services as part of another Al Qaeda linked cell that was trying to plot an  attack, but he was part of a community that was motivated by a group of older radicals with field experience.

This is an all-important detail when considering how to cast a net of suspicion over communities in the manner that Rep. Peter King did during his recent hearings on radicalization in US Muslim communities. The truth is it is a very small and focused portion of Muslim communities that are involved in radical activities. Focusing on them should be the purpose of counterterrorism efforts, rather than the catch-all approach that seems to be favored by King.

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