The final hours of the London bombers

It’s almost always a bad idea to link something before you’ve read it, but I’m going to take a chance. Tomorrow’s British papers are out and they’re packed with details about the July 7th bombing thanks to two reports issued today by the British government.

I’ll update later with highlights, but have at it if you can’t wait:

The Telegraph article says one of the bombers was heavily influenced by a jihadi preacher named Abdallah al-Faisal; a quick Google search turns up this page. Just a matter of time, wasn’t it?

The Independent has a related story out tonight about a friend of the bombers who’s sure they had help planning the attack and believes that the “mastermind” is still out there. “[S]omeone knows something and people are very reluctant to come forward to the police.”

Update: This jumps right out of the Independent’s narrative: “The Home Office says someone with previous experience of bomb-making probably helped the group, although details could have been obtained from the internet.”

Update: Still from the Independent:

They leave two nail bombs in the front of [their car], along with explosives and equipment that could be used to make several devices. In [the other car], Lindsay leaves a 9mm handgun.

There had been speculation that the bombs were for a mystery “fifth bomber”, but counter-terrorism officers have found no evidence to support this. They believe the weapons were for “self-defence or diversion” in case the police stopped them.

They needed weapons for self-defense above and beyond the giant bombs they were carrying in their backpacks? And what good would the bomb-making equipment do them if they were pulled over by the cops? Were they going to assemble the bombs while the cop was walking up to the driver’s window?

You start to see why their friend thinks someone else was involved in the plot.

Update: From the BBC’s key findings: “The group ‘was in contact with others involved in extremism in the UK’. But there is no intelligence to indicate that there was a fifth or further bombers.” And: “Claims that a ‘mastermind’ left the UK the day before the attacks ‘reflect one strand of an investigation that was subsequently discounted by the intelligence and security agencies’.”

Update: Given what’s been going on at Finsbury Park for years, this is especially disturbing:

Across the whole counter-terrorism community the development of a home-grown threat and radicalisation of British citizens were “not fully understood or applied to strategic thinking”.

They’re fully understood now: “Three terrorist plots in the UK have been thwarted by the intelligence and security agencies since July 2005.”

Update: The BBC’s bullet-point narrative is useful. Note the emphasis on how religious all four of them became in the years before the bombing. And yet, there’s no indication that they followed any of the pre-attack religious rituals undertaken by the 9/11 hijackers. It might have to do with their youth, but this reads less like jihad than an Islamist Columbine.

Update: The first of the Times of London’s unanswered questions has to do with the bombs left behind in the car. “[W]hy have the keys for the blue Nissan Micra never been found?”

ToL is also dubious about the government’s claim that there was no mastermind:

In June 2005, Khan and Tanweer went on a whitewater rafting trip in North Wales. Witnesses report that there was a burly man in the party who spoke only Urdu and appeared to hold sway. Khan took orders from him. The authorities have not traced this man.

And also about the fact that the boys were able to build such effective bombs on their own:

Magdy al-Nashar, an Egyptian biochemist who lived in Leeds and had links with members of the bomb cell, has never returned from Cairo since going there last summer. British police would like to speak to him.

Update: It gives you a sense of the scope of the problem to learn that two of the bombers returned from a terrorist training camp in 2003 — and weren’t tracked, because MI5 had even more dangerous people to follow. From ToL’s missed-clues piece:

“Intelligence at the time suggested that their focus was training and insurgency operations in Pakistan and schemes to defraud financial institutions. As such, there was no reason to divert resources away from other higher priorities, which included investigations into attack planning against the UK,” the report said.

But what about that bit from the BBC’s key findings about how poorly understood the terrorist threat was at the time? Or does this prove it?

Update: Also from the missed-clues piece, more on the alleged mastermind:

“Between April and July 2005, the group was in contact with an individual or individuals in Pakistan. It is not known who this was or the content of the contacts but the methods used, designed to make it difficult to identify the individual, make the contacts look suspicious.”

Update: ToL’s narrative reveals that the ringleader, Mohammed Siddique Khan, modelled himself on a British Muslim jihadi killed by the U.S. at Tora Bora in 2001. Hasib Hussain walked around school with a religious ed textbook on which he had written “al-Qaeda no limits.” And here’s a nice detail:

In the months before the bombings Khan, Tanweer and Hussain were increasingly seen spending time together around the mosques, Islamic bookshops and Muslim gyms — one was known as “the al-Qaeda gym” — and social clubs of the Beeston area.

A discrepancy — the Independent says three of the bombs were detonated at the same time (8:50), but ToL cites the report as saying the second bomb was at 8:56 and the third not until 9:17. The trains were still running 25 minutes after the first explosion?