British police say they held July 7 suicide bomber's fingerprints before attacks

LONDON (AP) — British police acknowledged Thursday that they had long held the fingerprints of one of the Islamist suicide bombers who blew themselves up in the July 7, 2005 attacks on London's transit network.

Scotland Yard said it had previously requested fingerprint information on Mohammad Sidique Khan only to be told by local police that there were none on file. But when police rechecked their archives last month they turned up two sets fingerprints for Sidique Khan, one dating to 1986, when he was just 11.

Khan was considered the ringleader of the four-man terrorist cell that attacked three subway trains and a bus on the morning of July 7, 2005, and some of the families of the attack's 52 victims have argued that authorities did not do enough to stop the terrorists before they struck.

In 2007, British security officials acknowledged that agents had trailed Sidique Khan more than a year before the attacks. He was also heard in several bugged conversations with other known radicals pledging to carry out violence against non-Muslims, and intelligence agents even planted a tracking device on his car.

But Britain's domestic intelligence agency MI5 eventually halted surveillance, deciding he was not a priority target.

West Yorkshire Police, responsible for the Beeston area of northern England where Sidique Khan once lived, said they discovered the prints when they took another look at their records in preparation for inquests for those killed in the attacks.

In Britain, inquests must be held any time someone dies unexpectedly, violently or of unknown causes.

The police said in a statement that the first set came from a time when a young Sidique Khan was arrested for handling stolen goods. A second set came from 1993, when he was cautioned for assault.

The revelation came amid legal arguments over the shape that the inquest will eventually take.

Families are hoping to use the process to determine whether authorities could have prevented the bombings. MI5 opposes that, saying that such an investigation would compromise national security.