In the light of reports from Britain about four Al-Qaida suicide bombers, the following March, 2004 article -from no less than the London Times itself- is well worth a review. It's pretty accurate, except for the bit about the muslim cleric being a double agent. Scratch the word double, and it reads better. -Fintan
Al-Qaeda cleric exposed as an MI5 double agent
By Daniel McGrory and Richard Ford,
March 25, 2004
ONE of al-Qaeda’s most dangerous figures has been revealed as a double agent working for MI5, raising criticism from European governments, which repeatedly called for his arrest.
Britain ignored warnings — which began before the September 11 attacks — from half a dozen friendly governments about Abu Qatada’s links with terrorist groups and refused to arrest him. Intelligence chiefs hid from European allies their intention to use the cleric as a key informer against Islamic militants in Britain...
...Among the scores of young militants who came to visit him in London was the chief suspect in the Madrid train bombings. His followers also included people who wanted to be suicide bombers for al-Qaeda, such as Richard Reid, the shoe bomber.
A security source in Madrid said yesterday: “Who knows how much violence and bloodshed could have been prevented if Britain had heeded the warnings about this man a long time ago.”
...Spain, France, Italy, Germany, the United States and Jordan all asked to question Abu Qatada about his links to al-Qaeda but were refused. Instead, MI5 agents held three meetings with the cleric, who bragged of his influence among young Islamic militants and insisted that they were no risk to Britain’s national security....
He disappeared from his family home in West London just before the law came into force.
Indignant French officials accused MI5 of helping the cleric to abscond. While he remained on the run, one intelligence chief in Paris was quoted as saying: “British intelligence is saying they have no idea where he is, but we know where he is and, if we know, I’m quite sure they do.”
Almost a year later Abu Qatada was found hiding in a flat not far from Scotland Yard.