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The London Blasts

 

The London Blasts: Media Review

TWO MONTHS ON

DAY 65: 10 September 2005

 

Contents

The 'Mullah Crew': Revelations About The 7/7 Cell

National Remembrance - Without The Bombers' Families

Michael Meacher On UK-Extremist Links

 

THE 'MULLAH CREW': REVELATIONS ABOUT THE 7/7 CELL

Today's Independent has a breakthrough story about the three Leeds bombers, and quite what they were up to before the 7 July plot. Ian Herbert and Kim Sengupta have done sterling work in uncovering the 7/7 bombers' social work/gang activities.

Mohammad Sidique Khan, the oldest of the four bombers, has been seen as the lead bomber. He seems to have worked closely with Shehzad Tanweer in creating a gang devoted to forcibly getting heroin addicts off drugs, outward bound-type adventuring, and, sometimes, fighting white gangs:

'The link between the two men dates back to the 1980s. In recent years their friendship had developed into membership of a 15-strong group of Asian youths known as "The Mullah Crew".'

'The group's meeting points included a local Iqra Islamic bookshop, which was raided by police after the bombings, and a gym beneath Beeston's Hardy Street mosque. Their radicalism was so blatant that the gym became known as the "al-Qa'ida gym", according to Tanweer's associates. But many were prepared to overlook this because the leaders of the Mullah Crew were known for energising many disenchanted Muslim boys whose heroin abuse was giving the Asian community a bad name.'

'Tanweer seems to have been integral to this process. "He and the Mullah Crew cleared up the area," said a source. "Lads would be taken by the group and put through cold turkey by locking them in a room for five days." '

'The Mullah Crew's emphasis was on strengthening the young Asians physically, often through outdoor activities like paintballing, climbing in the North Yorkshire Moors and canoeing in North Wales. Tanweer was more committed than most and he is particularly remembered for a paintballing trip in which he proved superb with the gun. "He was approaching it like a proper soldier," said the source.'

'Islam was also a part of the Mullah Crew's creed of clean living. "To be invited on one of these outings you had to be a part of their religious set," said another source. "They would not take lads who had become too 'Westernised' for their liking." '

'Another Mullah Crew trip saw an ill-equipped group go half-way up Mont Blanc before they were forced to head back. "Going without the proper equipment made it seem as if they were testing their strength for the jihad; testing their faith," said the source.'

'It appears that Tanweer took every aspect of life seriously, from cricket (he batted for Shaan B in the Quaid E Azam Yorkshire league) to snooker (he rejected the usual, smoke-filled clubs in favour of the Northern Club in Leeds, which has its own coach).'

'When it came to guarding what he perceived to be his territory, his independent spirit sometimes led to violence. The windows of his family's chip shop were smashed after fights broke out between white and Asian youths in Beeston. Tanweer seems to have planned to get his own back. "He was part of a group which planned to go to the white part of Beeston and get some revenge," said a source.'

The Independent has built up a 'a different picture' of Shehzad Tanweer, as more of an equal with Khan:

'a highly focussed, motivated and independent jihadist, who spent time - without Khan - at a terrorist training camp in Pakistan run by a group linked to the kidnap and murder of an American journalist...'

'One of Tanweer's former associates said the bomber had received lessons in handling arms and explosives at the camp in Mansehra, a remote area near the Kashmir border, in December and January. This is corroborated by sources in Pakistan, one of whom claims that he had two stints at the camp.'

One family member has now revealed that there were hints of the 7/7 attacks. She told Herbert and Sengupta:

'[The family] were watching a documentary on Muslims in Britain [in May]. Shahzad was convinced there would be a battle between Muslims and the West. [He said] "You'd better get out of here. Everyone's going to hate you".'

While these hints are now being recognised in retrospect, there is still no evidence that any family member of any of the four bombers knew of their plans in advance. The behaviour of many of them is evidence in the opposite direction: Hasib Hussain's parents reporting him missing to investigators on 7 July, in the belief that he might have been a victim is the most noteworthy example. This report was a crucial clue in the early part of the investigation, accelerating the identification of the Leeds bombers.

 

NATIONAL REMEMBRANCE - WITHOUT BOMBERS' FAMILIES

Today's Guardian reports that 'Relatives of the July 7 London bombers will not be invited to the national remembrance service for the victims. The Department for Culture said: "There is no truth in the recent coverage." ' Back on Wednesday, the Telegraph reported:

'Terry Waite, who was held hostage by Islamic extremists for four years, stoked controversy over a memorial service for the London bombings yesterday by calling for relatives of the bombers to be invited. The former Archbishop of Canterbury's envoy suggested that close relatives of the four suicide bombers should sit alongside the families of the 52 victims at the special service in St Paul's Cathedral.'

'His comments were echoed by Ken Livingstone, the London Mayor, who said that it would be "offensive" if relatives of the bombers were turned away from the service on Nov 1. Mr Waite, who was held hostage in Beirut from 1987 to 1991, said in an interview on BBC Radio 2: "The parents definitely should be involved in the service because in a different way they are victims themselves." '

'He said that it was both "Christian and courteous" to invite the families to the commemorative service, which is due to be attended by members of the Royal Family, senior politicians and leaders from different faiths. He added: "I firmly believe the parents of the children who commit crimes of an abhorrent nature such as murder need understanding." '

'The suggestion was first raised by Church of England bishops at the weekend. The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev Jack Nicholls, said he would like the bombers' families to attend, but only with the approval of the bereaved and injured. "The families should be consulted. If such a suggestion were to bring more anger between communities it would not be a risk worth taking," he said.'

The press release from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is rather curious. It says:

'The service is intended to provide comfort to the grieving families and friends of the victims. It will also be an opportunity to be an affirmation of London as one of the world's great cities and an affirmation of our multi-cultural and multi-faith society.'

'There is no truth whatsoever in the recent coverage which alleges that the families of the London bombers should be invited to the service, or that this was ever going to be the case.'

'We fully understand the anguish of the families of the bombers, but it would be wholly inappropriate to invite them to this service.'

There may be 'no truth whatsoever' that the DCMS and St Pauls ever considered the possibility of inviting the families, but it is hard to see how there could be 'no truth whatsoever' in the 'allegation' that they 'should be' invited.

Britain is going to affirm its nature as a multi-cultural and multi-faith society by excluding demonised, isolated and innocent Muslim relatives from a national service of remembrance. One of the few ways that British society has of reaching out to British Muslims, and offering these families a way out of exile or a cramped life under police protection, is being thrown away.

All reminiscent of the controversy over the national remembrance service after the Falklands War. The Archbishop of the Church of England defied the Government of the day in making the service inclusive:

'Mrs Thatcher famously fell out with the archbishop when he used the celebratory service at the end of the Falklands War to ask his congregation to remember those who mourned on both sides. As a former soldier and winner of the Military Cross he knew precisely what war meant and preached a Christian message inconvenient and embarrassing to a bellicose prime minister who herself had never experienced combat.'

We expect less of the former anti-war firebrand Rowan Williams, criticised by broadcaster John Snow for 'running scared'.

 

MICHAEL MEACHER ON UK-EXTREMIST LINKS

Michael Meacher, former Environment Minister in Tony Blair's Government, has a very interesting article in today's Guardian detailing US and British sponsorship of al-Qaeda-linked groups: 'Britain now faces its own blowback'.

Chalmers Johnson, author of the book Blowback, wrote recently in The Nation:

' "Blowback" is a CIA term first used in March 1954 in a recently declassified report on the 1953 operation to overthrow the government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran. It is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the US government's international activities that have been kept secret from the American people.'

Returning to today's Guardian, Mr Meacher has some interesting things to say about Britain's 'international activities':

'During an interview on Fox TV this summer, the former US federal prosecutor John Loftus reported that British intelligence had used the al-Muhajiroun group in London to recruit Islamist militants with British passports for the war against the Serbs in Kosovo. Since July Scotland Yard has been interested in an alleged member of al-Muhajiroun, Haroon Rashid Aswat, who some sources have suggested could have been behind the London bombings.'

'According to Loftus, Aswat was detained in Pakistan after leaving Britain, but was released after 24 hours. He was subsequently returned to Britain from Zambia, but has been detained solely for extradition to the US, not for questioning about the London bombings. Loftus claimed that Aswat is a British-backed double agent, pursued by the police but protected by MI6.'

The former minister suggests that getting to the bottom of the 7/7 plot may turn on whether 'Scotland Yard, in its attempts to uncover the truth, can prevail over MI6, which is trying to cover its tracks and in practice has every opportunity to operate beyond the law under the cover of national security.'

Mr Meacher also cites 'a recent report by the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation', which suggests (rather implausibly, we think) that British-born militant Omar Saeed Sheikh may have orchestrated the 7/7 bombings from his cell in Pakistan. Omar Sheikh 'is now in jail in Pakistan under sentence of death for the killing of the US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 - although many (including Pearl's widow and the US authorities) doubt that he committed the murder'.

Mr Meacher goes on to suggest that, 'Omar Sheikh who, at the behest of General Mahmood Ahmed, head of the ISI [Pakistan's CIA], wired $100,000 to Mohammed Atta, the leading 9/11 hijacker, before the New York attacks, as confirmed by Dennis Lormel, director of FBI's financial crimes unit.'

Omar Sheikh may well have an important role in international terrorism, but it is difficult to place a great deal of confidence of anti-Pakistan analysis emanating from the Observer Research Foundation, whose mission is 'Building Partnerships For A Global India'.

As for the Ahmed-Sheikh-Atta axis, this may also exist, and ISI links to al-Qaeda seem extremely plausible. However, the source for this story once again is Indian: the Times of India and India Today. This story from WorldNetDaily, which seems to have done quite a bit of work on the financing of 9/11, dissociates Dennis Lormel from the Ahmed-Sheikh-Atta connection allegation:

'According to accounts in both The Times of India and India Today, former ISI chief Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmad instructed Sheikh to send the $100,000 to Atta.'

' "A direct link between the ISI and the WTC attack could have enormous repercussions," the Times article said. "The U.S. cannot but suspect whether there were other senior Pakistani Army commanders who were in the know of things." '

'It added: "Evidence of a larger conspiracy could shake U.S. confidence in Pakistan's ability to participate in the anti-terrorism coalition." '

'The Times says Ahmad lost his job only after India shared with the FBI evidence showing a link between the general and Sheikh's wiring of funds to Atta.'

'J-e-M's accounts were frozen not long after Dennis M. Lormel, director of FBI's financial crimes unit, confirmed the $100,000 transaction, if not the source.'

' "They wired over $100,000 into Mr. [Mohamed] Atta a year ago," he testified in October, not identifying who "they" were.'

The point is not to exonerate the Pakistani authorities of involvement in al-Qaeda's activities, but to be careful about the evidence.

 

JNV welcomes feedback.

 

This page last updated 10 September 2005

 

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