Was there an intelligence oversight by Britain’s security services which allowed the brutal London Bridge Attacks to be carried out, by at least one terrorist which Mi5 had been watching since 2015?
After two agonising years for the families of eight victims, June 28th should have been a special day where a British judge would have settled that question and at least pointed the finger at Britain’s security services.
On 3 June 2017, three terrorists drove a rented van into pedestrians walking on London Bridge, immediately killing two people. They then charged around with 30cm knives in a stabbing rampage that killed six people.
The frenzied, brutal attack lasted 10 minutes and ended when armed police shot dead the terrorists with 46 rounds.
Yet that awful night which shocked a nation, shouldn’t in reality have come as a surprise to Mi5 chiefs who had placed the ringleader, Khuram Butt, 27, under surveillance since 2015 over fears he would stage such a terrorist incident.
Eventually, their fears came true as he struck alongside fellow east Londoners Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22. Yet how could security officers have not intercepted communications or assumed from his movements that he was about to carry off the attack?
And perhaps a more relevant question is how much responsibility should the government and security services in the UK take for failing for years to close down the extremist organisation Al-Muhajiroun, which was formed in the mid 80s by Bakri in Saudi Arabia before he arrived in the UK in 1986 and has carried on under a number of guises over the years run by Anjem Choudary from 1996 onwards.
Butt, the ringleader of the London Bridge attacks, was probably a member of the Al-Muhajiroun and it’s believed, based on what Butt told friends, that he knew Choudary – which begs the question why wasn’t Choudary arrested for the London attacks?
Police now are facing awkward questions about the link between Butt and Choudary which raises another broader question whether there has been a cover up about Butt’s relationship with both Choudary and Butt.
Choudary, for the best part of 20 years, has been linked to just about every terror attack in the UK and had been a key figure in recruiting British male Muslims for Al Qaeda and ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
The warning signs have been there for any vigilant citizen for years. Not only had The London Bridge attacker was believed to have had links to al-Muhajiroun but he even appeared on a Channel 4 documentary called The Jihadis Next Door in 2016, which centred around Choudary and his group of British extremists who appear to be deluded individuals who are addicted to media attention.
The leading British criminal court the ‘Old Bailey’ heard that Butt, a British citizen born in Pakistan, was once described as a “party animal” who liked reggae music and smoking cannabis – exactly like Choudary who didn’t get beyond a year at Medical school due to his vices.
But by 2013 there were hints of radicalisation and in September 2015 security services were actually tipped off about his radicalisation by a family member after he was shocked by Butt’s comments about ISIL burning to death a Jordanian pilot streamed on YouTube.
But if intelligence was not acted on, and we are witnessing a cover up now of just how much Mi5 knew about Butt, then the role of media, by contrast, is even more an efficacy of incompetence and ignorance. The British press and its nascent style of sloppy journalism which is born from a tail spin of employing 5th rate journalists and editors who have corrupted the news room with their echo chamber of erroneous views and rank insecurity to even investigate stories which challenge their narrative, also has some blood on its hands.
Put bluntly, just how could we expect British journalists to even do their job and dig deeper into radicalised Muslims like Butt when they can’t even accurately report on Omar Bakri by using his correct name.
The echo chamber in the UK press room dictates that any errors already published have to be repeated for ever, out of respect for snowflake colleagues who might burst into tears if they were challenged. Omar Bakri is not Omar Bakri. His name has actually been created by sloppy journalism in the UK. His real name is Omar Mohamed Bakri Fustok and his life is largely a mystery or a pack of lies depending on your perspective invented entirely for sloppy British journalists who he knew were never going to check details.
Most of what we remember as journalism has died in the UK. Cash-strapped media has shipped in a new generation of cheaper, younger, less educated journalists who largely consider old school journalism – where hacks actually have sources in the security services for example – a sort of terminal virus that should be avoided. Freelancer who are investigative journalists also are to be considered as Ebola victims which you don’t even want to shake hands with.
It’s new media. And even the older journalists can indulge themselves with their own ego-driven agenda in the newsroom when they are sitting next to people whose chief supply of information is the internet itself – a bastion of feral, biased opinion which conveniently feeds into the bias of a select few who cherry pick it to substantiate their own views, dressed up as ‘reporting’. The British press has not only become a farce, when we talk about journalism, but has indulged itself in rebranding itself as even more of an elitist club made up of tabloid hacks, who can barely find the middle east on Google maps let alone even know where Beirut is, accompanied by their broadsheet peers who would literally murder a freelance correspondent rather than let his piece get in the edition – from the same country where the crusty old boy is based. I had to keep a straight face recently when one such aging half wit told of a British broadsheet told me in all serious “no, I don’t let….er, i mean we don’t, that is to say I don’t work with freelancers. Sorry [smiles awkwardly]…freelancers…no”.
Whereas before, the select group of journalists working on foreign desks represented something akin to elitism, but at least were good at their work, these days we’ve dumbed down to accommodate the truly useless and inept.
Really insecure, self centred older journalists who were just too arrogant to listen to journalists like myself in the field who warned them (as I did with BBC Panorama editors when the London Bridge Attacks happened) and preferred the echo chamber of their own ignorance didn’t do their jobs and dig. They didn’t ask the right questions to security officers. They didn’t even ask themselves the right questions and do the research. A conspiracy of scores of senior journalists in the BBC and the broadsheet media failed those families of the eight victims.
And let’s face it, you don’t have to be too bright to join up the dots between ‘Omar Bakri’, Anjem Choudary and their disgusting, cowardly, vile terror organisation which murdered British soldier Lee Rigby – which fed them with the sick notoriety they needed to replace their empty lives and influenced losers like Khuram Butt who had an almost religious devotion to both men. In 2017 I sternly argued the case to a BBC producer on Panorama that ‘Omar Bakri’ was the architect of the London Bridge attacks but was more or less told to shut up as the idea was “far fetched” or words to that effect.
The arrogance and ignorance of this new generation of editors in TV and print who are allowed to indulge themselves with their own ideas while shutting out real journalists and their work is part of what many in the UK now are talking about what is responsible for the collapse of many important elements of British society. It’s this parody of journalism, which has led to a total collapse of confidence by the British public and led to, for example, the mess of Brexit or the emergence of Boris Johnson as a leader, which can be held, in part, responsible for the London Bridge Attacks. It’s not only the intelligence community which fudged it. It’s also media. Put another way, could you blame Mi5 officers not worrying about any accountability for making such seismic mistakes when they had total confidence in the British press to carry on with their churno-lism which bypasses all journalistic disciplines? The BBC could have interviewed Bakri in a Lebanese prison in 2017 (which I could have arranged) and perhaps been a catalyst for Mi5 doing which was obvious to me then and should be obvious to the entire security service: strike a deal. Bakri’s computers, seized by the Lebanese police in May 2014, just weeks after I interviewed him in his Tripoli home, probably had all the names and details of devout followers, as Choudary was in contact with him until his arrest. Maybe even Bakri knew some of the hard core ones by name; there are too many possibilities to explore to finally destroy the wretched Al-Muhajiroun once and for all but the UK choosing not to extradite Bakri from a country which it hands hundreds of millions of dollars to just for its Syrian refugee program alone, is a colossal error of judgement – as is the British press obsession with blaming security services alone when a terror attack is carried out, without looking at its own failings.