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Context of 'February 2004: Possible 7/7 London Bombings Mastermind Monitored Meeting with Leaders of Fertilizer Bomb Plot'

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The ranch near Bly, Oregon.The ranch near Bly, Oregon. [Source: Seattle Times]Haroon Rashid Aswat and Oussama Kassir, assistants to leading London-based radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, arrive in the US to assess the suitability of a proposed terrorist training camp. Upon arrival, they meet up with James Ujaama, another associate of Abu Hamza who proposed the camp (see October 1999) and its owner Sami Osman. Aswat is considered a close aide to Abu Hamza, who himself is an informer for the British (see Early 1997), and will later be described as the mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings.
Unsuitable Facility - However, Aswat and Kassir are unhappy with what they find, especially as Ujaama does not have a key to unlock the gate to the ranch when they arrive. In addition, the ranch lacks food, running water, toilet facilities, and barracks, and only has a simple trailer on it. They stay at the ranch for about two months and conduct weapons training for around 15 militants present. According to a witness, Kassir brags that he is a “hit man” for Abu Hamza and Osama bin Laden and has had jihad training in Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Lebanon. Jihadi videos are shown and a computer disc with details of how to improvise poisons is displayed. In addition, a scheme for poisoning a water supply is discussed, as are armed robberies, building an underground bunker to conceal weapons, and firebombing vehicles.
FBI Investigation - However, on December 13 Osman’s car is stopped due to a faulty brake light and the police officer notices that two men, who turn out to be Aswat and Kassir, are acting strangely in the car. For example, Aswat clutches a briefcase closely to his chest as the police officer questions him. The FBI previously had Osman under surveillance, but has lost him. A database check performed by the officer alerts the FBI and an agent is immediately dispatched to Bly. He shows a surveillance photo of Aswat and Kassir to the officer, who identifies them as the other two men in the car. More FBI agents arrive to investigate the ranch, but, before they can raid it, Aswat and Kassir leave for Seattle. There, Aswat allegedly boasts of being bin Laden’s “hit man,” just as Kassir has done.
Advised to Abandon Ranch - Aswat and Kassir eventually return to Britain and advise Abu Hamza against putting any further effort into the ranch. Kassir will be arrested in the Czech Republic and extradited in 2007 to stand trial. [Daily Mail, 7/24/2005; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 7/31/2005; Seattle Times, 8/9/2005; O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 185-186, 194; Associated Press, 9/26/2007]

Entity Tags: Sami Osman, James Ujaama, Oussama Kassir, Abu Hamza al-Masri, Haroon Rashid Aswat

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mohammed Junaid Babar.Mohammed Junaid Babar. [Source: London Times]In early November 2001, a young man using the name Mohammad Junaid appears in several print interviews in Pakistan. He appears unmasked in video interviews shown on CNN in the US and ITN in Britain. He says that he is going to fight US soldiers in Afghanistan with the Taliban even though he is a US citizen and his mother was in the World Trade Center on 9/11 and barely survived the attack. He says, “I will kill every American that I see in Afghanistan, and every American I see in Pakistan.” In fact, his full name is Mohammed Junaid Babar. [Boston Globe, 11/6/2001; London Times, 5/3/2007] He is a long-time member of Al-Muhajiroun, a radical Islamist group based in Britain but which also has a New York branch that Babar is involved with. [Guardian, 4/30/2007]
Placed on Watch List and Monitored - Babar is immediately placed on no-fly watch lists and monitored by intelligence agencies. The Washington Post will later report, “US counterterrorism officials said Babar first hit their radar screen in late 2001…” [Washington Post, 7/25/2005] Jon Gilbert, who interviews him in Pakistan in November 2001, will later say, “The authorities had been diligently tracking him since the day our first interview had been aired.” Babar left the US shortly after the 9/11 attack, and apparently had no ties with Islamist militants prior to his departure.
Babar Lives in Pakistan, Works with Al-Qaeda - He does not return there for some time. Instead, he lives in Pakistan and frequently makes trips to Britain (but is not stopped from coming or going, despite being on the watch list). He becomes increasingly involved in helping al-Qaeda with logistics, such as fund-raising, supplying equipment from overseas, and helping to set up training camps in Pakistan’s tribal regions. He also becomes actively involved in a fertilizer bomb plot in Britain. in 2002, he sometimes he attends talks by radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri with other members of the fertilizer plot in London’s Finsbury Park mosque. [Washington Post, 7/25/2005; Guardian, 4/30/2007; London Times, 5/3/2007]
Monitored Meeting with Key Militants - Meanwhile, intelligence agencies continue to monitor him. Details on such surveillance are scanty, but he apparently is monitored meeting with lead 7/7 London bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan in England in 2003 (see 2003). Newsweek will also later mention that “Babar was tracked flying off [in early 2004] to South Waziristan in Pakistan, where he attended what some analysts believe was a terror summit that included the notorious al-Qaeda operative Adnan Shukrijumah and Dhiren Barot, the operative suspected of casing New York financial institutions a few years earlier” (see March 2004). His Internet use at a public library is also monitored, and he is said to exchange messages with al-Qaeda operatives. [Newsweek, 1/24/2005]
Arrested in US - Babar finally returns to the US on April 6, 2004, although why he does this is a mystery since his confederates in the fertilizer bomb plot had been arrested in Canada, Britain, and Pakistan just days earlier, and their arrests had been immediately publicized (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). Babar is arrested by the FBI four days after his arrival, and quickly begins completely cooperating with the authorities (see April 10, 2004).
Suspicions He Was US Agent Since 2001 - The London Times will later comment, “Some suggest that he may have already been an FBI agent” before he was arrested. [London Times, 5/3/2007] The BBC will similarly say, “Inevitably there were suspicions that he’d been an FBI agent all along.” [BBC, 5/25/2007] But while that issue remains unclear, he proves to be an increasingly valuable source of information about al-Qaeda as more is learned about what he knows. One US law enforcement official will say in late 2005, “This guy’s connection to different cells and plots just seems to be expanding. He is the fish that is getting bigger.” [Washington Post, 7/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Al-Muhajiroun, US intelligence, Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohammed Junaid Babar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Six alleged members of the fertilizer bomb plot: Salahuddin Amin, Anthony Garcia, Waheed Mahmood,  Momin Khawaja, Jawad Akbar, and Omar Khyam.Six alleged members of the fertilizer bomb plot: Salahuddin Amin, Anthony Garcia, Waheed Mahmood, Momin Khawaja, Jawad Akbar, and Omar Khyam. [Source: Metropolitan Police/ CP Jonathan Hayward]In early 2003, the British intelligence agency MI5 is tracking a suspected al-Qaeda leader living in Britain known as Mohammed Quayyum Khan (a.k.a. “Q”) (see March 2003 and After), and they see him repeatedly meeting with a Pakistani-Briton named Omar Khyam. Quayyum is believed to be an aide to al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi. [BBC, 5/1/2007] By around March or April 2003, investigators begin monitoring Khyam, and soon discover he is a ringleader in a fertilizer bomb plot on unknown targets in Britain. [BBC, 4/30/2007]
Surveillance Intensifies - By the beginning of February 2004, surveillance intensifies. Thousands of hours of audio are recorded on dozens of suspects. The investigation soon focuses on a smaller group of Khyam’s close associates who are originally from Pakistan and had attended training camps in mountainous regions of Pakistan in recent years. Most of these men have links to Al-Muhajiroun, a banned Islamist group formed by radical London imam Omar Bakri Mohammed. The plotters are monitored discussing various targets, including nightclubs, pubs, and a network of underground high-pressure gas pipelines. In February 2004, MI5 intercepts a phone conversation between Khyam talking to his associate Salahuddin Amin, in Pakistan, about the quantities of different ingredients needed to construct a fertilizer bomb. An al-Qaeda operative in Pakistan had encouraged Amin to bomb targets in Britain.
Fertilizer Found and Replaced - Later in February, employees at a self storage depot in London call police after discovering a large amount of ammonium nitrate fertilizer being stored and suspecting it might be used for a bomb. Investigators discover the fertilizer belongs to Khyam and his group, and has been stored there since November 2003. The fertilizer is covertly replaced with an inert substance so a bomb cannot be successfully made from it.
Arrests Made - Investigators discover that Khyam is planning to fly to Pakistan on April 6, and the decision is made to arrest the suspects before he leaves the country. On March 29, a bomb plotter named Momin Khawaja is arrested where he is living in Canada. Weapons and a half-built detonator are found in his house. The next day, Khyam and seventeen others are arrested in England (see March 29, 2004 and After). Aluminum powder, a key bomb ingredient, is found in a shed owned by Khyam. Amin, still living in Pakistan, turns himself in to authorities there a few days later. Another key member of the group, Mohammed Junaid Babar, is not arrested and flies to the US on April 6. But he is arrested there four days later and quickly agrees to reveal all he knows and testify against the others (see April 10, 2004).
Five Convicted in Trial - The suspects will be put on trial in 2006 and Babar will be the star prosecution witness. Five people, including Khyam, will be sentenced to life in prison in 2007. Trials against Khawaja in Canada and Amin in Pakistan have yet to be decided. Curiously, Quayyum, who has been alleged to the mastermind of the plot and the key al-Qaeda link, is never arrested or even questioned, and continues to live openly in Britain (see March 2003 and After). [Guardian, 5/1/2007]

Entity Tags: Salahuddin Amin, Mohammed Quayyum Khan, Mohammed Junaid Babar, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, Al-Muhajiroun, Al-Qaeda, Omar Khyam, UK Security Service (MI5)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A surveillance photo of Momin Khawaja (in grey sweater) and unidentified man on February 20, 2004.A surveillance photo of Momin Khawaja (in grey sweater) and unidentified man on February 20, 2004. [Source: Public domain via the Globe and Mail]According to a joint Canadian and British report sent to Pakistani authorities in September 2005, Mohammed Junaid Babar, Momin Khawaja, and Haroon Rashid Aswat meet in London in February 2004. Babar and Khawaja are both members of a British fertilizer bomb plot (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004), but Khawaja is living in Canada and making occasional trips to Britain to meet the other plotters there, and Babar is based in Pakistan and also occasionally coming to Britain. By this time, the British intelligence agency MI5 has learned of the plot and is intensely monitoring all the major plotters, including Khawaja. US intelligence has apparently been monitoring Babar since late 2001 (see Early November 2001-April 10, 2004), and Newsweek will state he is definitely being monitored by February 2004 (see March 2004). [Daily Times (Lahore), 9/7/2005; Globe and Mail, 7/4/2008] Newsweek will later confirm, “Aswat is believed to have had connections to some of the suspects in the fertilizer plot,” and his name is given to the US as part of a list of people suspected of involvement in the plot. [Newsweek, 7/20/2005; Newsweek, 7/25/2005] He is the most interesting figure in this meeting. The US has wanted him since at least 2002 for his role in attempting to set up a militant training camp in Oregon (see November 1999-Early 2000). It will later be widely reported that he is the mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005) and may even simultaneously be an informant for British intelligence. Babar, Khawaja, and other major figures in the fertilizer plot will be arrested at the end of March 2004 (see March 29, 2004 and After and April 10, 2004), but Aswat curiously is not arrested, even though British intelligence had compiled a large dossier on him and considered him a “major terrorist threat” by 2003 (see Early 2003).

Entity Tags: Mohammed Junaid Babar, Haroon Rashid Aswat, Mohammad Momin Khawaja

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In March 2004, al-Qaeda apparently holds what Time magazine calls a “terrorist summit” in the Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan. Time says the meeting is a “gathering of terrorism’s elite” who come from all over the world to attend. Attendees include:
bullet Dhiren Barot, an al-Qaeda leader living in Britain.
bullet Adnan Shukrijumah, an Arab Guyanese bombmaker and commercial pilot who apparently met 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and has been on public wanted lists since 2003.
bullet Mohammed Junaid Babar, a Pakistani-American living in Britain. He arrives with money and supplies.
bullet Abu Faraj al-Libbi, al-Qaeda leader living somewhere in Pakistan.
bullet Two other unnamed attendees are believed to have surveilled targets in New York City and elsewhere with Barot in 2001 (see May 30, 2001). [Time, 8/8/2004; ISN Security Watch, 7/21/2005]
Other attendees have not been named. The meeting is said to be a “subject of obsession for authorities” in the US and Pakistan. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says, “The personalities involved, the operations, the fact that a major explosives expert came here and went back, all this was extremely significant.” Officials worry that it may have been a planning meeting for a major attack in the West. [Time, 8/8/2004] Babar is arrested one month later in the US and immediately agrees to become an informant and reveal all he knows (see April 10, 2004). But US intelligence had been monitoring Babar since late 2001 (see Early November 2001-April 10, 2004), and Newsweek will later claim that “Babar was tracked flying off [in early 2004] to South Waziristan in Pakistan, where he attended [the] terror summit…” It is unknown if the summit itself is monitored, however. [Newsweek, 1/24/2005] Regardless on when the US learned about it, no known additional pressure on Pakistan to do something about al-Qaeda in Waziristan results. In fact, in late April the Pakistani government ends one month of fighting with militants in Waziristan and signs a peace treaty with them (see April 24-June 18, 2004).

Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Dhiren Barot, Al-Qaeda, Adnan Shukrijumah, Mohammed Junaid Babar, Abu Faraj al-Libbi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Shehzad Tanweer (left) and Mohammad Sidique Khan (right) monitored at the Toddington Services gas station on February 2, 2004.Shehzad Tanweer (left) and Mohammad Sidique Khan (right) monitored at the Toddington Services gas station on February 2, 2004. [Source: Metropolitan Police]On March 29, 2004, 18 men suspected of involvement in an al-Qaeda linked fertilizer bomb plot are arrested in raids across Britain. Five of them, including head bomber Omar Khyam, will later be convicted and sentenced to life in prison for roles in the plot (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). Dozens more have been monitored in recent months as part of Operation Crevice, the effort by the British intelligence agency MI5 to foil the plot. Of those not arrested, 15 are classified as “essential targets” deserving heavy surveillance. An additional 40 are classified as “desirables,” with a lower level of surveillance. Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, future suicide bombers in the 7/7 London bombings, are both placed in the “desirables” group. Khan and Tanweer had been monitored repeatedly meeting and talking on the phone with head bomber Khyam. Khan was overheard saying incriminating things, like how he might hold up a British bank with a shotgun (see February 2-March 23, 2004). Incredibly, he was even recorded discussing how to build a bomb, his desire to leave Britain after the bomb went off, plans to wage jihad (holy war), and plans to attend al-Qaeda training camps in Pakistan (see May 13-14, 2006). But within weeks of the arrests of Khyam and the others, MI5 is distracted by another big surveillance operation focusing on Dhiren Barot, who is considered an important al-Qaeda leader living in Britain. As a result, the remaining Operation Crevice suspects are given lower priority and in fact Khan and Tanweer allegedly are not monitored at all. Additionally, even though MI5 knows the exact address where Khan lives, local police forces (which are not distracted by the Barot case) are not told that there are potential terrorism suspects who should be monitored. [London Times, 5/1/2007] Investigators will gather information about Khan’s car registration briefly in early 2005 and will learn his full name if they do not know it already, but it seems this will not lead to any more surveillance (see January 27-February 3, 2005). Apparently, Khan is also linked to Barot in some way, yet he is not arrested at the same time Barot and others are in August 2004, and he and the other 7/7 bombers still are not monitored after that (see August 3, 2004). As of 2007, only one of the 15 “essential targets” will be jailed for terrorism-related activity. [Associated Press, 4/30/2007]

Entity Tags: UK Security Service (MI5), Omar Khyam, Dhiren Barot, Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mohammed Junaid Babar.Mohammed Junaid Babar. [Source: CBS News]On April 10, 20004 a Pakistani-American al-Qaeda operative named Mohammed Junaid Babar is arrested by federal agents in Long Island City, New York. Babar has just flown to the US from Britain four days earlier, after a group of his associates were arrested for planning a fertilizer bomb plot (see March 2003 and After). Babar begins cooperating with the authorities almost immediately. He confesses to:
bullet Participating in the bomb plot.
bullet Meeting senior al-Qaeda leaders in the Pakistani tribal region.
bullet Buying supplies, including night-vision goggles, for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
bullet Passing funds to al-Qaeda from supporters in Britain.
bullet Setting up a militant training camp in Pakistan.
bullet Arranging lodging and transportation for recruits attending his camp.
Babar’s arrest is not immediately made public. On June 3, he secretly pleads guilty to charges of supporting a terrorist organization. His arrest is made public on June 11. He faces up to 70 years in prison, but will have his sentenced greatly reduced in return for fully cooperating and testifying against others. Babar grew up in the US, but went to Pakistan shortly after 9/11 to fight with al-Qaeda. He was interviewed on television there several weeks after 9/11 proudly proclaiming his desire to kill Americans, and as a result was put on a US watch list and monitored. He spent the next years traveling between Pakistan and Britain, and was even monitored heading to a secret al-Qaeda summit in Pakistan in March 2004 (see Early November 2001-April 10, 2004 and March 2004). [CNN, 6/11/2004; Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2004]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Junaid Babar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The four London bombers captured on closed circuit television. From left to right, Hasib Hussain, Germaine Lindsay, Mohammad Sidique Khan, and Shehzad Tanweer, pictured in Luton train station at 07:21 a.m., Thursday, July 7, 2005.The four London bombers captured on closed circuit television. From left to right, Hasib Hussain, Germaine Lindsay, Mohammad Sidique Khan, and Shehzad Tanweer, pictured in Luton train station at 07:21 a.m., Thursday, July 7, 2005. [Source: Scotland Yard]England suffers its worst terrorist attack when four bombs go off in London during the morning rush hour. At 8:50 a.m. bombs go off on three London Underground trains within 50 seconds of each other. A fourth bomb goes off at 9:47 a.m. on a double-decker bus, near Tavistock Square. Fifty-six people, including the four bombers, are killed. The bombings become popularly known as ‘7/7.’ [Daily Telegraph, 7/7/2005; Daily Mail, 7/8/2005; CNN, 7/22/2005] The alleged bombers, all British residents between the ages of 18 and 30, are Mohammad Sidique Khan, Hasib Mir Hussain, Shehzad Tanweer, and Germaine Lindsay. All were British nationals of Pakistani descent, except Lindsay, who was born in Jamaica, but moved to England when he was five. [Daily Telegraph, 7/16/2005; BBC, 7/21/2005] In 2004, Khan had been the subject of a routine threat assessment by the British intelligence agency MI5, after his name came up during an investigation into an alleged plot to explode a truck bomb in London. However, MI5 did not consider him a threat and did not place him under surveillance. [BBC, 7/17/2005; London Times, 7/17/2005] According to the Independent, Tanweer had similarly been scrutinized by MI5 that year, but was also not considered a threat. [Independent, 12/17/2005] Khan and Tanweer had flown to Pakistan together in November 2004, returning together in February 2005. However, what they did during their stay is unclear. [BBC, 7/18/2005; CNN, 7/20/2005] Less than a month before the bombings, the British government lowered its formal threat assessment one level, from “severe general” to “substantial,” prompted by a confidential report by the Joint Terrorist Analysis Centre (JTAC). JTAC, which is made up of 100 top intelligence and law enforcement officials, concluded, “At present there is not a group with both the current intent and the capability to attack [Britain]” (see Mid-June 2005). [New York Times, 7/19/2005; London Times, 7/19/2005] The attacks also coincide with the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, attended by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush, amongst others. [Guardian, 7/7/2005] Consequently, 1,500 officers from London’s Metropolitan Police, including many anti-terrorist specialists, are away in Scotland as part of the force of 12,000 created to police the event. [Press Association (London), 7/7/2005; London Times, 7/10/2005]

Entity Tags: Germaine Lindsay, Mohammad Sidique Khan, Hasib Mir Hussain, Shehzad Tanweer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Around July 21, 2005, Haroon Rashid Aswat was arrested in Zambia, and the British government soon arranged to have him quickly extradited back to Britain, since he is a British citizen. Numerous press accounts have described Aswat at the mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005 and Late June-July 7, 2005). However, British authorities, who apparently have yet to question him, appear mysteriously uninterested in him. On July 31, the Sunday Times reports: “Scotland Yard sources say [Aswat] is not considered a priority in their criminal investigation into the July 7 and July 21 attacks. But senior [British] officials do not rule out the possibility there my be links to one or more of the bombers.” One unnamed official says, “I don’t think the evidence is conclusive either way.” Senior officials “also deny ‘any knowledge’ that he might be an agent for either MI5 or MI6.” [Sunday Times (London), 7/31/2005] The Times does not explain why officials would deny he worked for British intelligence, but on July 29, counterterrorism expert John Loftus claimed on Fox News that Aswat has had a long relationship with MI6 and they have tried to protect him from arrest (see July 29, 2005). [Fox News, 7/29/2005] On August 1, the Financial Times reports that British officials are seeking “to play down the role of Haroon Rashid Aswat… Zambian officials have agreed to extradite [him]… but British officials said they were no longer interested in interrogating him.” [Financial Times, 8/1/2005] It is not explained why officials are not at least interested in interrogating Aswat over his other suspected criminal activities. According to one article, by 2003, British officials had collected a large dossier on him and deemed him a “major terrorist threat” to Britain (see Early 2003), and in 2004 he was linked to a fertilizer bomb plot in Britain (see February 2004). Furthermore, while in custody in Zambia, he allegedly confessed to serving as Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard. [Sunday Times (London), 7/31/2005]

Entity Tags: Haroon Rashid Aswat

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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