Page last updated at 11:17 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 12:17 UK
Trio cleared over 7/7 attacks

By Dominic Casciani
BBC News

Waheed Ali and bomber Hasib Hussain, November 2004
Waheed Ali (left) and bomber Hasib Hussain in November 2004

Four years of detective work, thousands of lines of inquiry and yet the massive investigation into the 7 July suicide attacks on London came down to the movement of three mobile phones around London.

Prosecutors said their case against Waheed Ali, Sadeer Saleem and Mohammed Shakil was elegantly simple - but the jigsaw of circumstantial evidence was not enough to convince the jury that these men were part of the plot that brought death to the streets of the capital.

The jury at the first trial failed to reach verdicts - and this subsequent acquittal on the main charge raises questions about the evidence gathered in one of the largest investigations ever run by Scotland Yard.

At the heart of this prosecution was the allegation that the three Leeds men went to London on 16 December 2004 to scout for bomb targets.

The police's suspicions began in the days after the attacks, when detectives pieced together a picture of the lives of the four dead bombers.

The remains of Mohammad Sidique Khan's phone, found amid the wreckage of his Edgware Road blast that killed six people, included a number tagged "SHAXMOB" - attributable to Mohammed Shakil. Another entry, "SADS", referred to Sadeer Saleem.

Then they had statements from the trio themselves, confirming they knew the bombers.

Later, forensic tests on the bomb factory linked the trio to items found inside the Leeds flat.

In late 2006 police officers mapped the movements of the defendants' mobile phones.

The men had been together in London in December 2004, alongside bomber Hasib Hussain and, for part of the day, another of the 7/7 attackers, Germaine Lindsay.

Prosecutors told the trial their movements bore a "striking similarity" to the sites eventually attacked.

But there was one problem - and the defendants exposed it the moment they took to the witness box.

Invading armies

The men all freely admitted having visited London - but said it was to allow Mr Ali to say goodbye to his sister. He and Mr Saleem were heading to a mujahideen training camp in Pakistan - following Khan and fellow bomber Shehzad Tanweer, who had already left.

1999: Mohammed Shakil in Kashmir
2001: Khan and Waheed Ali in Kashmir and Afghanistan
2003: Khan and Mr Shakil, Pakistan
2004: Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Mr Ali and Sadeer Saleem in Pakistan; Khan and Tanweer went on to a further unknown location
2007: Ali and Shakil plan to head to Pakistan but are arrested. Convicted in relation to this planned trip

Each of the defendants in turn said they had visited militant camps. But they said their trips were nothing to do with al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism.

The men went to these training camps because they believed that Muslim men in the UK had a right to fight to defend Islamic lands from invading armies.

In each case, the trio convinced the jury that their support for violent jihad did not mean they supported suicide bombings in the UK - and that they knew nothing of what was planned for London.

And that was the critical point at the heart of the trial.

In combative evidence from the witness box, Mr Ali denounced suicide bombings - but freely admitted being willing to fight abroad, even if it meant facing British citizens.

"If it got down to fighting, I would have gone wherever my emir [commander] sent me," he told the court.

But he went on: "If I agreed with [the bombers], I would have been there on 7/7 with the brothers, with a rucksack on my back. If I agreed I would have killed hundreds.

"They didn't stop them, they wouldn't have stopped me. Not your MI5, not your MI6, not nobody."

Final months

In November 2004, Khan and Tanweer left for Pakistan, expecting to fight - and possibly die - in Afghanistan. At some point shortly after arrival it appears that Khan was persuaded to become a suicide bomber in the UK.

Waheed Ali, Sadeer Saleem and Mohammed Shakil
Waheed Ali, Sadeer Saleem and Mohammed Shakil denied the charge

Mr Ali and Mr Saleem said that when they had travelled out to Pakistan, they had realised that the two bombers had been distancing themselves.

They were already in another camp while Mr Ali and Mr Saleem appear to have been dumped in a house near the Afghan border.

They spent their days bored, with minimal military training and a diet of kidney beans and chapatis.

And on their return, the bombers stopped meeting the others, telling Mr Ali that they "had to do something for the brothers".

Mr Ali told the court how he found out what that something was. He was staying at his sister's house on 7 July and in the morning stumbled downstairs in his boxer shorts to hear the news of the attacks.

He explained how he felt when he realised his childhood friend Shehzad "Kaki" Tanweer had blown himself up.

"He had been my best friend since I was little. I had a lot of love for him. What he did on that day was unbelievable.

"The world knows him as Shehzad Tanweer. I don't know Shehzad Tanweer. I know Kaki. There are two different stories."

A map of the key movements of mobile phones around London relating to the 7/7 investigation

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