Video Broadcast Warns Britons of More Attacks
Friday, July 7, 2006
LONDON, July 6 -- In a videotape broadcast by al-Jazeera television Thursday, a man identified as one of the four bombers who struck the London transit system one year ago vows "a string of attacks" against Britain.
"What you have witnessed now is only the beginning of a string of attacks that will continue and become stronger until you pull your forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq and until you stop your financial and military support for America and Israel," says the man, identified by the Arabic-language network as Shehzad Tanweer, 22, one of the four British-born Muslim extremists who killed themselves and 52 subway and bus passengers.
Release of the videotape came on the eve of the first anniversary of the July 7 attacks -- known here as 7/7 -- which shocked a nation that is still struggling to understand how four British men could have committed such violence against their own country.
The anniversary will be marked Friday with a national two-minute silence that Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said represents the nation's "unutterable grief." Officials will lay flowers at the bombing sites and read aloud the names of the 52 victims at Regent's Park, where about 1,000 survivors and family members of victims have been invited.
Andy Hayman, a top police official, said Thursday that the timing of the videotape's release "can only cause maximum hurt and distress to the families and friends of those who died on 7/7 and the hundreds of people who were injured."
The deadliest peacetime attacks on Britain have left a deep rift between British Muslims and the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair, which responded to the attacks by passing laws that make it easier to prosecute and deport people who are found to "glorify" terrorism. Muslim leaders have complained that the government is unfairly targeting their communities; a recent poll found that 13 percent of British Muslims said the July 7 bombers should be seen as martyrs.
On the new videotape, the man identified as Tanweer wears a red-and-white head scarf, jabs his finger toward the camera and speaks in English. He says the British people are targets because they elected a government that "continues to oppress our mothers, children, brothers and sisters in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya."
Blair has repeatedly denied that British government policy in the Islamic world led to the London attacks.
The tape also shows al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, along with footage of people mixing chemicals to make bombs and circling sites on a map of London. It clearly attempts to link the attacks to al-Qaeda, which has repeatedly asserted responsibility -- although British officials say there is no proof that the global extremist network was involved in planning or executing them.
In two reports issued in May, the British government concluded that the bombers had been inspired but not directed by al-Qaeda. The reports said that Tanweer and Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, the group's presumed ringleader, had had contact with al-Qaeda operatives during visits to Pakistan, but that they had acted on their own.
Critics of the reports have called for an independent probe into the bombings, a move Blair has called unnecessary.
"We need to ask ourselves, almost a year on from 7/7, whether we are safer now than then," Marie Fatayi-Williams, whose son died in the attacks, said at a news conference Thursday. "We need to know what led to 7/7, we need to know the real reasons behind 7/7 and other such atrocities that seem to occur on an almost daily basis the world over."
Michael Clarke, a terrorism specialist at King's College in London, said the new tape -- and a similar tape released last September showing Khan trying to justify his actions -- offers no proof of a direct al-Qaeda link to the attacks, but implies at least a "degree of liaison."
Clarke suggested that al-Qaeda held back the tape for use on an anniversary of great emotional significance in Britain.
"Clearly it's an attempt to trump the anniversary," Clarke said, adding that "7/7 will be observed in London as a day of sadness and remembrance. But this tape is saying you ought to remember that this was an act of war against your society."
But Evan Kohlmann, a U.S.-based terrorism consultant, said the video offered proof that al-Qaeda was behind the London attacks: "There is no clearer way that al-Qaeda could say they did this," he said.
Kohlmann also noted the presence on the tape of Adam Gadahn, a native Californian in his mid-twenties who is believed to be the only U.S. citizen who operates at a high level within al-Qaeda. Gadahn, a former heavy-metal music fan who converted to Islam in 1995, now does the English narration on many al-Qaeda videos and audiotapes, including an audiotape made earlier this year by Osama bin Laden, Kohlmann said.