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London's July 7 bombers were homegrown terrorists motivated by a desire for martyrdom, British Home Secretary John Reid told Parliament yesterday, saying there was little in their background that marked "them out as particularly vulnerable to radicalization."
Reid presented reports to Parliament prepared by the Home Office and the crossparty parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) investigating the July 7, 2005, terror attacks by four British citizens on London's transport system.
Fifty-two people died when Muhammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Jermaine Lindsay and Hasib Hussain detonated homemade peroxide-based bombs on three Underground trains and a London bus.
"Their motivation appears to have been a mixture of anger at perceived injustices by the West against Muslims and a desire for martyrdom," he told Parliament.
Reid, who was appointed Home Secretary on May 5, said the reports detailed "what we know about the bombers and how and why they did what they did." The Home Office report documented the movements of the four in the build-up to the attack, stating that their plans took shape shortly after the return of two of the bombers from a visit to Pakistan in February 2005.
The report states the four built the peroxide-based bombs in an apartment rented from an Egyptian chemistry student at Leeds University, hiring a car to drive to London on the morning of the attack.
The bombers were "largely unexceptional," with little to distinguish their "formative experiences from those of many others of the same generation, social background and ethnic [Britishborn Pakistani] origin" save for Lindsay, a Jamaican-born convert to Islam.
Islamist ideology and religious fanaticism were the common links among the bombers. The "importance of martyrdom as supreme evidence of religious commitment" was a motivating factor in the attack, the Home Office found.
Police investigations also revealed the importance of conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic propaganda in the worldview of the bombers, who held "the view that the 9/11 attacks were a plot by the US."
The ISC report concluded there was no "simple Islamist extremist profile in the UK and that the threat is as likely to come from those who appear well assimilated into mainstream UK society, with jobs and young families, as from those within socially or economically deprived sections of the community."
The report also cleared Britain's security services of any blame for failing to prevent the attacks and pressed for increased government funding of anti-terror programs and closer cooperation with foreign intelligence services.
"If more resources had been in place sooner the chances of preventing the July attacks could have increased," it stated.
"Perhaps one of the most shocking aspects of the 7 July attacks was the fact that they were suicide attacks," the ISC noted.
"The possibility of British citizens conducting suicide attacks had been illustrated by the 'shoe bombers' [Richard Reid and Saajid Badat] and also by the suicide attempts of Omar Sharif and Asif Hanif in Tel Aviv in 2003" the ISC said, but explained that "these attacks had not taken place on British soil" and the assessment by the security services was "that suicide attacks were not likely and that they would not become the norm in Europe."
The faces of two of the bombers were known to the security services before the attack, from photographs gathered during an unrelated intelligence operation, the ISC report stated.
However the bombers' names and intentions were not known. Given the paucity of intelligence, the security services' decision not to investigate the two "further or seek to identify them" was "understandable," the report concluded, "in light of the other priority investigations being conducted and the limitations on security service resources."
The ISC also stated that two of the four had made contact with al-Qaida during visits to Pakistan, but the extent to which attacks were "externally planned, directed or controlled by contacts in Pakistan or elsewhere remains unclear," the ISC report said.
"Greater coverage in Pakistan, or more resources generally in the UK, might have alerted the [security services] to the intentions of the 7 July group," the report stated. But even with an increased security profile, it "seems highly unlikely that it will be possible to stop all attacks," the ISC report concluded.
Conservative party shadow home secretary David Davis pressed the government to set up an independent inquiry. "This process has frankly raised more questions than answers. Can we now have what we should have had from the start," Davis asked Reid, "not a public inquiry, but a fully resourced independent inquiry into what was clearly a major failure of our intelligence systems."
Reid responded that no independent inquiry would be held, as it would distract resources from the war on terror and expose on-going intelligence operations.