British security services had come across two men who went on to carry out last year's July 7 suicide bomb attacks on London but did not believe they posed an urgent threat, a parliamentary report said yesterday.
Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer were among four British Islamist militants who set off rucksack bombs on three underground trains and a double-decker bus, killing 52 people and wounding more than 700.
The parliamentary panel investigating the bombings the first suicide attacks in Western Europe said it was not clear if they had any direct link to al-Qaida. The committee's chairman said he suspected the plot had been hatched in Britain.
The intelligence and security committee did not blame officials for not pursuing Khan and Tanweer, who featured on the margins of another terrorism probe, saying there was no indication at that time they were significant.
But opposition politicians demanded an independent inquiry into the bombings, which took place as Prime Minister Tony Blair hosted a summit of Group of Eight world leaders in Scotland.
"At the time of the attack, and in the immediate aftermath, the government were claiming that the bombers were previously unknown to the authorities because they had no previous criminal or terrorist activity," senior Conservative David Davis said. "We now know that to be untrue."
Home Secretary (interior minister) John Reid said there was no need for another inquiry.
He stressed the attackers would have been hard to detect in advance, saying they used simple ingredients for the bombs and the operation probably cost less than 8,000 pounds (US$15,000).
"The willingness of these men to use suicide bombing as their method and to attack vulnerable, civilian targets ... made them doubly difficult to defend against," he told parliament.
British officials have warned that another attack is almost certain at some point and the committee said security services had thwarted three more plots since last July.
In a video statement released after his death, Khan hailed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden as a hero and said attacks would go on as long as "atrocities" were committed against Muslims.
The committee noted both Khan and Tanweer had spent time in Pakistan and it was likely they had come into contact with al-Qaida figures. But it said the extent of any direct al Qaeda control over the attacks was unclear.
"My instinct is that these were home-grown plots and that the links ... are not as great as some people might have thought in the past," committee chairman Paul Murphy said.
Source: China Daily