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The London Blasts


The London Blasts: Media Review

DAY 57: 2 September 2005

The 7/7 Bombers Explain




Right-wing Papers Give Better Coverage, Front Pages

The 7/7 Bombers Explain

The Two Statements, The British Media And The Two Statements, Distraction And Erasure


The Khan Tape, The Al-Zawahiri Tape, The Timing Of The 7/7 Bombings

Ken Clarke Intervention

Out Of Time!




If it hadn't been for the video of Mohammed Sidique Khan, lead 7/7 bomber, Kenneth Clarke's anti-war speech would have been our top story, and it would have deserved to be a front page story. Before discussing the two interventions, and the media coverage of them, in detail, let's just get a sense of the way the British newspapers treated these two stories.

The first story was dynamite: one of the 7/7 bombers explains why the bombings happened, a question that has been at the centre of political debate since they happened.

The second story was also extraordinary: a senior Conservative is attempting to win the leadership of his party (which requires support from grassroots Conservative Party members) by attacking the decision to go to war with Iraq in general, and, in particular, the way in which it has heightened the risk of terror in Britain.

Once again, we have a version of the Telegraph Anomaly: the right-wing newspapers give more attention and priority to these effectively anti-war stories than the liberal newspapers.


The dichotomy is clearest with the most right-wing and most anti-war tabloids. The Daily Mail gives its front page over to a massive picture of Khan, and just 28 pages encapsulating (without bias) the whole story. On the other hand, the Daily Mirror puts New Orleans on the front page, and clips a picture of Khan to the top right hand corner as a link to a story on page 15. Online, the story is not listed in their top stories of the day (there are nearly 50 of them).

Onto the 'quality' papers.

The Telegraph is firm: the front page is dominated by a picture of Khan, accompanied by a substantial story, which again is a fairly unbiased statement of the facts. The Times does the same trick as yesterday - New Orleans text on the left (more important), and pictures for the bomber on the right (three pictures in fact). The one-paragraph summary is again factual.

The Guardian has the same approach, but gives New Orleans both pictures and text on the left (more important) and two-thirds of the whole front page, while squeezing the Khan video into top right with a tiny picture of Khan (below the fold).

The Financial Times leads with New Orleans on the front page, and has a top left teaser for the story (at the head of the Business Briefing column) with a one-para summary leading to the story on page 2. Online, the story is not listed either in the UK Home News section, or in the London terror section of their site.

The Independent has New Orleans on the front page, and no indication at all of the Khan video either on the front page or any other page, until it arrives on page 7. Online, it is the second listed story on the home page.

So, to sum up, the right-wing press has given more prominence to Mohammed Sidique Khan's explanation that the bombings were motivated by Britain's involvement in Iraq than the left-liberal Guardian and Independent. The FT and Mirror have pretty much erased the story online.

Interesting, and an indication of where this story is going. The same way as the Young Muslims and Extremism report and the

Ken Clarke's Iraq speech did not get onto any front pages in any shape or form.




The Khan video was handed to al-Jazeera on a tape which also contained footage of fighting in Iraq, Chechnya and Afghanistan, and a message from al-Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The one clear message of the Khan video is that the London bombings, while an act of revenge, were at the same time designed to help deter future 'atrocities' by Western governments:

'Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters.'

'Until we feel security, you will be our targets. And until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight.'

The one clear message of the al-Zawahiri video is that al-Qaeda is determined to encourage and/or organise terrorist attacks until the US and Britain have ended their interference in majority Muslim countries:

'Our message to you is clear, strong and final: there will be no salvation until you withdraw from our land, stop stealing our oil and resources and end support for infidel, corrupt [Muslim] rulers.'



Did this central message get reported? In the sense that in most newspapers the crucial words were quoted, the main message of the two statements was technically 'reported'. However, when we look at the framing of the reports, we see that this message was effectively erased in most newspapers by the treatment given to the two statements.

The treatment is summed up in the Independent headline, 'Videotapes reveal al-Qa'ida's link to July 7 London bombings'. The key concern in most of the reporting is what the video means in terms of the connection between the four 7/7 bombers and the al-Qaeda hard core in Central Asia.

The Telegraph has, 'Experts are finally given the missing link to outside group' - alongside the main story 'In a measured Yorkshire accent, the July 7 suicide bomber delivers his message of hate'.

The FT had two articles: 'Al-Qaeda lays claim to July 7 London attacks' and 'Two messages of hate aimed at reasserting terror network'.

The Guardian had two stories: 'Video of 7/7 ringleader blames foreign policy', which was on the front page, and which did reflect this central message, and '7/7 tape put under intense scrutiny', which was once again concerned with the al-Qaeda link.

The Times front page headline, '7/7 bomber's al-Qaeda video blames the West for attacks' (not online), and page 2 headline, 'Suicide bomber's video confession blames Iraq war', both reflected the key message. The articles didn't really address the point very much, but at least they didn't focus on the degree of connection to the al-Qaeda core.



It is an important question - the extent to which these bombings were organised or instigated by the al-Qaeda leadership, rather than just inspired by them - but what has happened in almost all the coverage is that the total focus on this issue means that the plain words being said, by Khan and by al-Zawahiri, are being rendered invisible. They are erased in front of your eyes by the way the videos are framed and analysed.

Most of the media coverage is, unfortunately, vindication for Khan's comment in his video that, 'our words have no impact upon you'.





The full text of the video statement by lead bomber Mohammed Sidique Khan runs as follows:

'I'm going to keep this short and to the point because it's all been said before by far more eloquent people than me. And our words have no impact upon you, therefore I'm going to talk to you in a language that you understand.'

'Our words are dead until we give them life with our blood.'

'I'm sure by now the media's painted a suitable picture of me, this predictable propaganda machine will naturally try to put a spin on things to suit the government and to scare the masses into conforming to their power and wealth-obsessed agendas.'

'I and thousands like me are forsaking everything for what we believe. Our driving motivation doesn't come from tangible commodities that this world has to offer.'

'Our religion is Islam - obedience to the one true God, Allah, and following the footsteps of the final prophet and messenger Muhammad... This is how our ethical stances are dictated.'

'Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters.'

'Until we feel security, you will be our targets. And until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight.'

'We are at war and I am a soldier.'

'Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.'

'I myself, I myself, I make dua (pray) to Allah... to raise me amongst those whom I love like the prophets, the messengers, the martyrs and today's heroes like our beloved Sheikh Osama Bin Laden, Dr Ayman al-Zawahri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and all the other brothers and sisters that are fighting in the... of this cause.'

'With this I leave you to make up your own minds and I ask you to make dua to Allah almighty to accept the work from me and my brothers and enter us into gardens of paradise.' (BBC translation)

The second part of the statement (in italics) is more indistinct.

The whole statement is reproduced in the Daily Mail (page 3). The first part is printed in the Telegraph (page 7) and the Guardian (page 11). No substantial section of the statement is in either the Independent or the FT, though both carry quotes. The Daily Mirror article (page 15) quotes two words from the statement.

You can watch the Khan tape on the BBC website by clicking on the link on this page. It's obvious that his statement has been edited into two parts; it's not clear who by or if anything was left out. It seems likely.



It is difficult to find anything like a complete text of al-Zawahiri's statement, but here are bits and pieces taken from different sources, starting with a partial translation by CNN:

'I talk to you today about the holy attack on London, which came as a slap in the face of the arrogant British crusaders.'

'Now you can taste a sip from the glass Muslims have drunk from for centuries. This attack adds to the attacks before in Washington, New York and Madrid. We have moved the battle to the land of the enemy after they battled us in our land for so long.'

'After centuries of invading our land and occupying it ... this is for you to taste some of what you have made us taste before.'

'Didn't the lion of Islam the Mujahid, the sheikh Osama bin Laden, offer you a truce?... Look what your arrogance has produced.'

'We have warned you over and over again. We repeat the warning. ... We will erupt volcanoes of hatred in their countries.'

Al-Jazeera itself has a (partly overlapping) translation:

'I talk to you today about the blessed London battle which came as a slap to the face of the tyrannical, Crusader British arrogance. It's a sip from the glass that the Muslims have been drinking from.'

'This blessed battle has transferred - like its glorious predecessors in New York, Washington and Madrid - the fight to the enemies' land, after many centuries of the battle being on our [Muslim] land and after [Western] troops have occupied our land in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine.'

' Blair not only disregards the millions of people in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he does not care about you as he sends you to the inferno in Iraq and exposes you to death in your land because of his Crusader war against Islam.'

'We have alerted and warned you, people of Crusade allies, but it appears that you want us to make you taste death in all its horribleness.'

'So, taste some of what we have been made to taste.'

"Did not the Lion of Islam, the Mujahid Shaikh Osama bin Laden, offer you a truce so that you might depart from Islamic lands?'

'But you were obstinate and were led by arrogance to more crimes and your Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that these proposals "deserve to be met with our contempt".'

'Rejoice the outcome of your governments' arrogance.'

'Blair brought upon you disasters in the centre of your capital and we will bring upon you more. He is still fooling his people and insisting in his obstinacy to treat them as if they are idiots incapable of understanding.'

The Guardian has an extra, crucial, bit of this last sentence:

'Blair has brought catastrophes to his people in the middle of the capital, and will bring more, God willing, because he is still fooling his people and insisting and stubbornly treating them like ignorant fools when he keeps repeating that what happened in London has nothing to do with the crimes he has committed in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq.'

According to the BBC, al-Zawahiri explicitly defined the crucial issues for al-Qaeda. He said,

'The lands and interests of the countries that took part in the aggression against Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan are targets for us.'

And he also poured scorn on the condemnation of the London bombings by British Muslim leaders, whom he describes as 'the scholars of beggary'. The Guardian quotes this rebuttal: 'We tell them treatment in kind is just.'

The Guardian has a section of al-Zawahiri's statement directed at the US:

'If you continue the same hostile policies you will see something that will make you forget the horrors you have seen in Vietnam.'

'There is no way out for Washington except by immediate withdrawal. Any delay in this decision means more killing and losses. If you don't withdraw today, you will inevitably withdraw tomorrow, but only after tens of thousands are killed and injured.'

'Our message to you is clear, strong and final: there will be no salvation until you withdraw from our land, stop stealing our oil and resources and end support for infidel, corrupt [Muslim] rulers.'

According to Arabic News, the video tape also included footage of bin Laden making his truce offer (discussed in an earlier Media Review).



Very importantly, The Times says that al-Zawahiri 'claimed the timing for the attacks was the anniversary of Britain and other European countries ignoring a truce offer from bin Laden to withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan or face a terror campaign.'

Bin Laden made his truce offer on 15 April 2004. In it he said,

'The reconciliation will start with the departure of its last soldier from our country.'

'The door of reconciliation is open for three months of the date of announcing this statement.'

That offer ran out on 15 July 2004. The anniversary would have been 15 July 2005. Bizarrely, this is almost exactly between the two attacks on 7/7 and 21/7.

Police and security service sources have been quoted as discounting any strong connection between the two groups, but this bracketing of the truce offer expiry anniversary is quite a coincidence if there was no coordination between the two attacks.

It may be that the first attacks were brought forward and 7 July was chosen because of the G8 summit, and the consequent shift in security forces' attention north of the border, but if al-Zawahiri is correct in his explanation of the timing, July 2005 was chosen for reasons completely unconnected with Britain hosting an international summit.

Note the reference to 'democratically-elected governments' in Khan's statement (which might have been recorded a year earlier, according to various reports).

It may not be coincidental that these bombings took place after the May elections. Though the Labour Party lost a lot of votes, and most people who voted didn't vote for them, the election result was interpreted as an acceptance (however reluctant) of Tony Blair's leadership, despite his crimes.

This is not to justify the bombings in any way, but to explain how the course of events may appear to the kind of people who are willing to carry out these kinds of suicide bombings.



We ran out of time!

We'll try to write about this important development tomorrow or Sunday.

We haven't finished with the Khan/al-Zawahiri tape and their media coverage either. The tape is going down the memory hole rapidly, you can feel the suction as it begins to disappear.


JNV welcomes feedback.


This page last updated 2 September 2005





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