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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

London Bombers Reportedly Planned Sarin Attack on British-Australian Cricket Match

Two of the men who carried out the 2005 suicide bombings of London’s transit system reportedly had planned to unleash the nerve agent sarin that year during the Ashes cricket match between Australia and the United Kingdom, the London Sunday Times reported (see GSN, July 7, 2005).

Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer received their orders from al-Qaeda in December 2004, according to a man using the pseudonym Ahmed Hafiz.

The two men were to find jobs as stewards at the British cricket ground during the August match in Birmingham and to spray sarin inside changing rooms used by the teams.

Hafiz said a witness told him that Tanweer was a fan of cricket and did not want to carry out the attack.

“Tanweer had Sidique in a headlock, and the fight had to be broken up by the chaperone,” said Hafiz, who said he is a friend of the family of another bomber, Hasib Hussain.

The men learned of the plot to bomb the London transit system several days later, Hafiz said. “It was always there, as Plan B,” he said Dozens of people were killed on July 7, 2005, when terrorists set off bombs on three subway trains and a double-decker bus (Taher/Hasnain, Sunday Times, Oct. 8).

Terrorism experts questioned the report, the Australian Associated Press reported yesterday.

Hafiz said the two men received their orders a training camp in Kashmir. One expert said, however, that the London bombers did not train at that site.

“The source says that the 7/7 bombers trained in the Kotli camp in Kashmir, but we know that the 7/7 bombers trained in the Malakand camp in Pakistan,” said Rohan Gunaratna. “So there is some information that is contradictory with the information that is currently available.”

Sarin, which was used in the 1995 attacks on the Tokyo subway system, is dangerous and not easily produced, said David Wright-Neville of Monash University in Australia.

“There’s no evidence that sarin has ever really loomed in the al-Qaeda cells in Europe’s thinking. It’s a difficult chemical to use,” he said. “The fact that you might be able to access players’ dressing rooms with pump packs of sarin strapped to your back and a small hose is similarly, I think, odd.”

Australian Prime Minister John Howard also expressed skepticism.

“I think we have to have the source of the allegation very carefully checked out before we assume it’s correct,” he said (Maria Hawthorne, Australian Associated Press, Oct. 9).
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