Bombers were trained, al-Qaida chief claims

CAIRO, Egypt – Two of the four suicide bombers who attacked London last July 7 spent time at an al-Qaida camp to prepare themselves for a suicide mission, the deputy leader of the terror network claimed in a video Friday.

British authorities previously said they knew Shehzad Tanweer and Mohammad Sidique Khan had visited Pakistan, but the comment from al-Qaida No. 2 man Ayman al-Zawahri was the first to claim that they had been at an al-Qaida base.

“Both of them were seeking martyrdom and wished that they could carry out a martyrdom operation,” al-Zawahri said, using the Islamic euphemism for a suicide attack.

It was not possible to independently verify his claim, which was part of a video posted on the Internet on the first anniversary of the suicide bombings that killed 52 commuters on three subway trains and a bus in London.

The video also contained a harangue by an English-speaking al-Qaida member against British and U.S. involvement in the Middle East and Asia, saying no Muslim should “shed tears” for Westerners killed by al-Qaida attacks.

The speaker was identified with the Arabic nickname “Azzam al-Amriki” – Azzam the American. That name has been used in previous al-Qaida videos by a man identified as Adam Gadahn, a Californian who converted to Islam and has been sought by the FBI since in 2004 on suspicion of attending an al-Qaida training camps in Pakistan.

Al-Zawahiri did not say when the two London bombers trained at the al-Qaida camp or where it was. The group is believed to have bases along the Pakistani-Afghan border, a rugged region where many experts think Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahiri may be hiding.

Al-Zawahiri said that while at the camp, Tanweer and Khan paid no heed to militants who discussed matters unrelated to suicide attacks, “because the goal for which they came to al-Qaida’s jihad base was to carry out a martyrdom operation.”

A security analyst at the London think-tank Chatham House, Bob Ayers, said the claim contradicted the British police finding that there was no evidence linking the four London bombers to al-Qaida.

“It makes the police look pretty bad,” Ayers said. “It means the investigation was either wrong, or they had identified links, but were reluctant to reveal them.”

The 31-minute video appeared on an Islamic Web site known for carrying militant messages and was released to coincide with the first anniversary of the London bombings. A heavily edited version was broadcast Thursday by Al-Jazeera television.

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