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Police promise thorough investigation into London attacks

Reporter: Ros Childs

ROS CHILDS: Well, as we just saw, police are promising thorough investigations into the terrorist
attacks. Despite the suggestion yesterday by the British Home Secretary Charles Clarke that the
attacks have all the hallmarks of Al Qaeda, there is only suspicion, no confirmation on who carried
out the bombings. Professor George Joffe is a research fellow at the Centre for International
Studies in Cambridge and a renowned expert on the Middle East. I spoke to him a short time ago from
the BBC's newsroom in Oxford.

ROS CHILDS: So Professor Joffe, do you think these attacks bear the hallmarks of Al Qaeda?

PROFESSOR GEORGE JOFFE: Well, I'm not certain that's the appropriate appellation. They certainly
bear the hallmarks of similar attacks that have occurred in Europe in the past, I think,
particularly the attacks 15 months ago in Madrid. But those were carried out by European-based
networks that had a loose affiliation to Al-Qaeda. They're in no way similar to the attacks carried
out on New York and Washington in 2001.

ROS CHILDS: The group which has claimed responsibility over the Internet is a group calling
themselves the Secret Organisation of Al-Qaeda in Europe. There is speculation, American
speculation, that that group could be linked to the Jordanian terrorist, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. Do
you believe there is a link there?

PROFESSOR GEORGE JOFFE: I have to say again I found that fanciful. The fact that the name refers to
Al-Qaeda simply means that this represents part of the generic type of terrorism that has come to
be typical of the last five years. There's no necessary assumption built into that that the group
itself is directly linked to either Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, or indeed to Al Qaeda and bin Laden. Mr
Al Zarqawi, for example, was originally a well-known Jordanian thug. He's simply active inside Iraq
and it's very difficult to imagine that he's beginning to construct some complicated complex
network covering Europe, as well as the Middle East. If that were the case, I think the
intelligence services would have discovered it long ago and dismantled it.

ROS CHILDS: What do you think of the characteristics of the perpetrators? Could they be foreign
nationals or could they be a sleeper cell within Britain made up of British nationals?

PROFESSOR GEORGE JOFFE: I think the most likely explanation is - as again occurred in Madrid - They
were looking at a network built up of long-term migrants in Europe that may well have connections
back in the Middle East or North Africa, or indeed in areas in Pakistan, that have deep-rooted
grievances that reflect those of the Middle East itself. But they are themselves basically based in
Europe, probably inside Britain. They may be long-term, they may even be British nationals and they
don't reflect, thereby, some complex foreign network that was introduced into the country for the
sake of the attack. That seems to me to be the most likely explanation.

ROS CHILDS: Therefore is it likely there are more cells, similar cells operating within Britain and
within Europe and therefore there could be more attacks?

PROFESSOR GEORGE JOFFE: We know perfectly well there are a series of networks operating inside
Europe. There have been a series of arrests over the last four years demonstrating that. And indeed
in every case the people arrested were people who were residents in Europe, not people who had come
in for the purpose. That seems to me to be the most likely situation. As to whether or not there's
more cells in Britain, that's also quite possible but it has to be borne in mind that the security
services here are very carefully monitoring such groups. They have been over the last four years
700 arrests in connection with alleged terrorist offences inside Britain. Now, of those 17 have
come to trial. Only three in fact have been shown to be linked to some kind of Islamist terror
group.

ROS CHILDS: Now the British Government has pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice swiftly. Do
you think, practically, they can do that?

PROFESSOR GEORGE JOFFE: Well, again, the experience of Europe has been that after an incident of
this kind, it's usually been quite easy to identify and locate those responsible and they have
either been killed or brought to justice. There are a series of trials going on inside Europe at
the moment over the question of the Madrid bombings in March 2004. And, in that case, it seems to
me there's probably going to be the same situation in Britain. The security services here and the
police do now have very good lines of information and they do monitor groups of all kinds, so I
think it's quite likely they will pick up some thread of evidence that will allow them to trace
back the group concerned and I think that when they do, it will be found to consist of people
who've lived here for many years.

ROS CHILDS: Now as you've been describing there have been similarities between the attacks in
London and the attacks in Madrid. Is this, therefore, a failure of the intelligence services or is
this just a demonstration that you can't stop a determined attacker?

PROFESSOR GEORGE JOFFE: Well, it's interesting you mention that because the Home Secretary here in
Britain has just admitted that there was, in a generic sense, a failure of the intelligence
services in that they didn't know or pick up any hint that an attack was now planned. But again,
beyond that, he went on to say it's not a failure of the intelligence operation themselves because
they monitor very carefully what's going on, but simply on this occasion, there had been no prior
indication - no noise, as they say - indicating that an attack was on its way. Whether that's true
or not, we'll find out in the days to come. But generally speaking, I think it's the case that the
British intelligence services are now highly aware of the dangers that they face and they are
therefore mobilised to pick up any evidence of an attack before it occurs. The security services
here claim they've already foiled four similar attacks in the past. So if in this case there was a
failure of intelligence, it was a failure that would have been inevitable because you're basically
looking for a needle in a haystack.

ROS CHILDS: So Professor George Joffe, what is the next political step for Tony Blair?

PROFESSOR GEORGE JOFFE: That's a very interesting question, too, because I think the Government's
automatic reaction will be to bring in new legislation, to improve the situation of control of
violence here. In Britain that's particularly easy because the House of Commons is sovereign and
there is no Constitution. So there's very little limit on what they can really do. The courts do
try to control Government action, but in the past it's been demonstrated that, by and large, the
Government can do more or less what it wishes. That would be the first response. As far as Mr Blair
himself is concerned, there are two possible outcomes to this. Either he will be blamed directly by
the population because of the question of Iraq and the links that the group that made the claim
have to Iraq and Afghanistan. Otherwise, he will be seen to have been in a masterful position,
controlling the crisis. The security services here and the humanitarian services operated very
efficiently and that will then go down to his credit. So it may be that his reputation will be
enhanced. The only pointer we've got at the moment is an article that appeared in the Guardian
today written by Robin Cook, a former minister inside the Government, who directly accused the
Prime Minister of being responsible because of his Iraq policy.

ROS CHILDS: Of course there has been speculation that Tony Blair could hand over power to his
chancellor, Gordon Brown, within a year. Could these bombings accelerate that process?

PROFESSOR GEORGE JOFFE: That again will depend on the way in which the popular view develops. I
think that if Mr Blair is seen to have handled the situation appropriately, if he receives popular
support for the way in which he's approached it, then he'll be able to carry on in government. If
he's criticised, then he's going to be forced very quickly to hand over power. At the moment it
appears power is to be handled over to the Chancellor, but there are those inside the Labor Party
that feel very antagonistic about that and there may be other challenges, too. In fact the
situation is now very uncertain. It's not clear quite how popular opinion will react or indeed what
it will do to Mr Blair's reputation.

ROS CHILDS: Professor George Joffe, thank you.

PROFESSOR GEORGE JOFFE: You're welcome.