They didn’t belong to any terrorist groups. “If there is no trace then this means the terrorism situation in the UK is much worse than we have believed…” And of course it is, because no Muslim group in the UK or elsewhere has drawn a distinction between themselves and the jihadists that is sufficiently sharp to prevent those jihadists from moving freely among the peaceful Muslims. And since the threat is not being challenged at the ideological level, it is entirely possible for a peaceful Muslim to turn into a jihadist under the noses of authorities — as Mike Hawash and others have done in the U.S. The problem is indeed much bigger than British authorities think, and much bigger than they are even now willing to admit.
From the Evening Standard (thanks to Doc Washburn):
MI5 fear the gang behind the attempt to set off car bombs in London’s West End are an “off-the-radar” cell with no previous links to terrorism.
They are concerned that the gang, now at the centre of a massive international manhunt, have evaded the anti-terror net which has foiled every plot in Britain since the July 7 London bombings in 2005.
On Friday, two cars laden with petrol and gas were discovered in adjacent streets, apparently primed to cause mass devastation.
Police and forensic teams were painstakingly dismantling the cars, looking for anything that might led them to the terrorists.
But Whitehall sources voiced concern that MI5 had no warning of an imminent attack. The Security Service fear their lack of intelligence points to an unknown ‘cleanskin’ home-grown group or an international terrorist cell allowed to slip into Britain from abroad.
The discovery of an “off-the-radar” cell would call into question Britain’s entire anti-terrorist strategy, which has seen millions of pounds of extra cash spent on internal security and a massive expansion of MI5’s manpower.
Despite huge amounts of information on potential terror plots being sifted by MI5, sources say they picked up no warning of the plan to plant devices in two Mercedes cars, one of which was left directly outside a busy nightclub.
The cars, packed with nails, petrol and gas cylinders, failed to explode. But despite having 1,600 terror suspects under investigation nationwide, only chance averted a tragedy.
The first bomb was discovered after ambulancemen attending to an injured late-night reveller spotted smoke or gas vapour pouring from a parked car. A second device, left in another Mercedes parked in an adjacent street, was found only after the car was towed to a police pound because it had been parked illegally.
US sources claimed the bombs failed to go off despite repeated calls to mobile phones rigged to trigger the devices….
The officials, quoted by ABC News, claimed the man bore a “close resemblance” to an associate of terrorist mastermind Dhiren Barot, who was jailed for life in Britain last November.
But British investigators insist they are still desperately trying to clean up the CCTV footage from the cameras, which they hope will show one of the bombers parking his car. They say the raw footage is “what you would expect from a camera monitoring a street at night, with faces far from distinct”.
One of Barot’s plans was to park limousines packed with gas canisters under high-profile buildings. But the British sources said while there were some similarities between the Barot plot and this failed attack, there was “nothing else to link them at this stage”.
Whitehall sources admitted they feared the individuals behind the attack might be the nightmare scenario – genuine “cleanskins”.
“If there is no trace then this means the terrorism situation in the UK is much worse than we have believed and everything we have been doing – the expansion of MI5 – will have to be reassessed,” said a highly placed source. The British sources also revealed that one theory was the terrorists may have been sent from abroad to launch the latest attacks.