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Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
British security 'negligent' over attack suspects
Suspect Zacarias Moussaoui at entrance to Brixton underground station
Zacarias Moussaoui lived openly in London
By the BBC's Malcolm Brabant

As the investigation into the attacks on America enters its fourth week, recriminations are starting about vital clues missed by intelligence agencies.

Britain's security services have been accused of failing to detain one of the key suspects.

In an attempt to show that Britain is now being extremely cooperative, the authorities have allowed American agents to begin questioning the pilot alleged to have taught four of the hijackers how to fly.

The French authorities believe that Britain's security services have been at best inefficient, at worst negligent, in their attitude towards Islamic extremists.

Warnings ignored

The French claim that as long ago as 1994 they urged the British to arrest Zacarias Moussaoui, who is currently being held in the United States on suspicion of being a key member of the hijack team.

But nothing was done. Then, in 1999, the French reportedly warned the British that Mr Moussaoui had been trained in Osama Bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan, and urged them to trace him.

But again nothing happened, although Mr Moussaoui was living openly in London and even claiming welfare benefit.

American agents are also furious over what they say is the US authorities' failure to investigate him properly after his arrest in August, a month before the hijackings.

The FBI had wanted to examine the hard drive of his computer, but the Justice Department refused to grant a search warrant because there did not seem enough evidence to suggest he was a terrorist threat.

The agency is convinced it might have been able to thwart the attacks on New York and Washington if permission had been granted.

Increased cooperation

Having learned their lessons in such a bitter way, there now appears to be unprecedented co-operation between security services.

The FBI has been allowed into Bellmarsh prison in south London to question Lotfi Raissi, a 27-year-old pilot accused of training four of the hijackers at a flight school in Arizona.


Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures

British official
Mr Raissi is being held on remand while his extradition case proceeds.

Normally American investigators would not be allowed this sort of access.

But it is understood that the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, approved cutting through red tape.

The justification, as one official said, was that "extraordinary times require extraordinary measures".

Mosques under scrutiny

The British civil rights group, Liberty, said that as long as Raissi's lawyer approved, they did not have a problem.

Elsewhere in Britain, anti-terrorist police are continuing to question a 43-year-old man arrested at Waterloo station as he waited to board a Eurostar train through the Channel Tunnel.

And it seems likely that militant mosques in Britain will come under intensified scrutiny from the security services and police.

This follows the alleged confession of a key suspect under questioning by an anti-terrorist judge in Paris.

Djamel Beghal, a 35-year old Algerian, reportedly told officials that during three years in Britain, he procured recruits from mosques in London and Leicester in central England.


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See also:

03 Oct 01 | Americas
US welcomes Blair's strong stance
01 Oct 01 | UK
UK freezes terror funds
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