x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Judge in 7/7 inquest rules security service was not at fault

The decision came as a disappointment to some families of the victims who felt that errors by MI5 had enabled the four young men, all Britons of Pakistani origin, to go through with their deadly attacks.

LONDON // The deaths of 52 people killed when four al Qa'eda-trained suicide bombers exploded devices on London's transport system in 2005 could not have been prevented despite failings by the security services, one of Britain's most senior judges ruled yesterday.

Lady Justice Heather Hallett, who acted as coroner during the five-month inquest into the 7/7 killings on three underground trains and a bus, said there was "simply no evidence at all that the security service knew of, and therefore failed to prevent, the bombings".

The decision came as a disappointment to some families of the victims who felt that errors by MI5, the UK's internal security agency, had enabled the four young men, all Britons of Pakistani origin, to go through with their deadly attacks.

But although Justice Hallett made a string of recommendations on improved procedures for MI5 and the emergency services - who experienced delays reaching the injured because of communication breakdowns - she said the evidence "does not justify the conclusion that any failings of any organisation or individual caused or contributed to the deaths".

The inquest had heard that an undercover MI5 surveillance team had taken a clear colour picture of the bombers' ringleader, Mohammed Sidique Khan, and his lieutenant, Shehzad Tanweer, at a motorway service station in February, 2004.

A badly cropped, black and white reproduction of the picture was sent to the United States to be shown to the al Qa'eda informant Mohammed Junaid Babar, who had met Khan at a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

But US agents decided it was not worth showing the picture to Babar because it was so grainy that it made Khan unrecognisable.

Justice Hallett said she believed that the inquest, which heard evidence from 300 witnesses, including a senior member of the security services, was "the most rigorous scrutiny" of the events of that day.

Ruling that "52 innocent members of the travelling public were unlawfully killed in a dreadful act of terrorism", Justice Hallett said that, although there were delays in the emergency services' response, the injuries of those who died were so severe that it would have been impossible to save them.

"I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that each of them would have died whatever time the emergency services reached and rescued them," she said.

The judge also paid tribute to the "quiet dignity" of the families of the victims and said she was making a series of recommendations which "may save lives" in the future.

Afterwards, Adam Chapman, a lawyer repressenting seven of the bereaved families, said the hearings were "conducted with the broadest possible scope" and provided important lessons for the emergency services and MI5.

Referring to the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on Sunday, he added: "Today's verdict, coupled with the wider events of this week, will assist my clients in drawing a line under this atrocity, as far as that can be done.

"My clients now wish to lay the matter to rest and to focus on cherishing the memories of those they loved."

dsapsted@thenational.ae