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July 21, 2005
London Bombers Got Long-Distance Pep Talk?

Pakistani and British investigators have found phone records indicating that al-Qaeda leaders may have contacted the London bombers the night before the terrorist attacks that killed at least 56 and left hundreds injured on July 7. Haroon Rashid Aswat, now in custody in Pakistan, also visited all four bombers in the weeks leading up to the attack:

Haroon Rashid Aswat has emerged as the figure that Scotland Yard have been hunting since he flew out of Britain just hours before the attacks which killed 56 people.

Aswat, 30, who is believed to come from the same West Yorkshire town as one of the bombers, arrived in Britain a fortnight before the attacks to orchestrate final planning for the atrocity. He spoke to the suicide team on his mobile phone a few hours before the four men blew themselves up and killed fifty-two other people.

Intelligence sources told The Times that during his stay Aswat visited the home towns of all four bombers as well as selecting targets in London.

Aswat has been known to Western intelligence services for more than three years after the FBI accused him of trying to set up al-Qaeda training camps in the US. When he was arrested in a madrassa (religious school), Aswat is understood to have been posing as a businessmen and using a false name. He was picked up in a raid at a madrassa at Sargodha, 90 miles from Islamabad, by Pakistani intelligence officials and flown to a jail in the capital.

Security sources there told The Times that he was armed with a number of guns, wearing an explosive belt and carrying around 17,000 in cash. He had a British passport and was about to flee across the border to Afghanistan.

The British have been cautious thus far about identifying the bombings as an AQ operation. They saw what happened with Jose Aznar in Spain when he assumed immediately that the ETA conducted the Madrid attacks. Even though Blair doesn't face any immediate elections, he'd prefer to act a bit more cautiously and keep his credibility intact.

These developments do strongly suggest that AQ sponsored and directed this attack, and that is significant. For the past two weeks, the British have wondered why the mostly home-born terrorists could have decided on suicide jihadiism, especially since Britain and London especially have a tradition of free exercise of religion, particularly tolerant of Islam itself. This shows that AQ and its affiliates have no problem infiltrating free societies, of course, but it also shows something else: AQ doesn't want to achieve some kind of cultural parity as its end goal. It wants to wipe out all other forms of religion except the most radical and deadly form of Islam. It has now attacked the two Western countries in which Muslims can operate most freely (America and Britain) and conducted savage and cowardly attacks on its civilians.

In fact, Aswat himself had been in the US before 9/11. His purpose? He wanted to set up madrassas and AQ training camps in remote parts of Oregon, training recruits in "urban warfare", poisons, and firearms. Aswat got that assignment, according to the Times report, from a London-based imam.

It now appears that Aswat's long run of infiltration, incitement, and plotting against the peoples who hosted him has come to an abrupt end. Unfortunately, it comes after Aswat apparently directed the AQ operation that brought the lives of 52 Londoners to an abrupt end as well.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 21, 2005 5:36 AM

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