Saudis warned UK of London attacks

Saudi Arabia officially warned Britain of an imminent terrorist attack on London just weeks ahead of the 7 July bombings.

Saudi Arabia officially warned Britain of an imminent terrorist attack on London just weeks ahead of the 7 July bombings after calls from one of al-Qaeda's most wanted operatives were traced to an active cell in the United Kingdom.

Senior Saudi security sources have confirmed they are investigating whether calls from Kareem al-Majati, last year named as one of al-Qaeda's chiefs in the Gulf kingdom, were made directly to the British ringleader of the 7 July bomb plotters.

One senior Saudi security official told The Observer that calls to Britain intercepted from a mobile phone belonging to Majati earlier this year revealed that an active terror group was at work in the UK and planning an attack.

He also said that calls from Majati's lieutenant and al-Qaeda's logistics expert, Younes al-Hayari, who was killed in a separate shoot-out just four days before the 7 July bombings, have also been traced to Britain.

The Saudi official said: 'It was clear to us that there was a terror group planning an attack in the UK. We passed all this information on to both MI5 and MI6 at the time. We are now investigating whether these calls were directly to the London bombers. It is our conclusion that either these were linked or that a completely different terror network is still at large in Britain.'

Majati, a Moroccan based in Saudi Arabia, was killed in a shoot-out with Saudi police in April. He is believed to have masterminded the May 2003 attacks on Casablanca and has also been named in connection with the March 2004 Madrid bombings.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the UK, Prince Turki al-Faisal, last night issued a statement confirming that discussions had taken place between British and Saudi officials earlier this year.

A statement from his office said: 'There was certainly close liaison between the Saudi Arabian intelligence authorities and the British intelligence authorities some months ago when information was passed to Britain about a heightened terrorist threat to London.'

It is not believed that any specific information was given, but that details were passed on of calls, emails and text messages between an al-Qaeda cell operating in Saudi Arabia and a group in the UK.

Italian investigators into the failed bomb attack in London on 21 July revealed last week that they had traced a call from Hussain Osman, a suspect being held in Rome, to Saudi Arabia. It is believed these calls were to a female member of Osman's family but the significance of this is now being played down.

The statements from the Saudi regime are likely to shift the focus of the investigation into the London bombings from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda.

If it emerges that a top international Islamic terrorist was in direct contact with 30-year-old Mohammed Siddiqui Khan, the leader of the Leeds cell which killed 56 people, it will also suggest that the bombings were more closely connected to the international terror organisation than previously thought.

However, if information passed to Britain from Saudi Arabia turns out to lead directly to the ringleader of the Leeds suicide bombers, then the British security services will have to explain why they failed to act.

British security sources last night categorically denied they received any warnings of a specific attack on London that could have averted the July tragedy in the capital. The source said they 'did not recognise' the details of the Saudi claims.

Contributors

Martin Bright, Antony Barnett and Mohammed Alkhereiji

The GuardianTramp

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