UK probe: Blasts a wave of horror
London - The 52 people killed in the London suicide bombings of July 7 2005, were murdered in acts of mindless savagery during an "unimaginably dreadful wave of horror," the inquests into their deaths heard on Monday.
Four British Islamists - Mohammad Sidique Khan, 30, Shehzad Tanweer, 22, Hasib Hussain, 18, and Jermaine Lindsay, 19, - detonated homemade bombs on three packed underground trains and a bus in the worst peacetime attacks in London.
The long-awaited inquests - which had to wait until all criminal trials of alleged associates of the bombers had ended - are the first public examination of the blasts and the events leading up to them.
The coroner, Lady Justice Heather Hallett, who is sitting without a jury, opened the hearing by pledging to release as much material as possible to the public.
"I will balance carefully the needs of national security with relevance and fairness," she said. She will examine the role of the security services and whether MI5 could and should have stopped the attacks.
Closed hearings possible
"Contrary to some reports in the media today, I did not decide to sit without a jury so as to consider intelligence material in private," she said.
"I have yet to decide whether it is in my powers, and if so, if it is in the interests of justice to conduct any closed hearings."
After a minute's silence for the victims, lawyer to the inquests, Hugo Keith, outlined how the four suicide bombers carried out the bombings on the morning of July 7 2005.
"They detonated amongst the innocent and the unknowing, indiscriminately killing and maiming passengers who were simply going about their daily business," he said.
"The bombs struck down men and women, the old and young, British nationals as well as foreigners.
"They had no regard to whether the victim was Christian, Muslim, a follower of any of our other great faiths, an adherent to none."
No report on victims
Keith said the four bombers unleashed an "unimaginably dreadful wave of horror" which they hoped would attract worldwide publicity.
"They were acts of mindless savagery which could only outline the sheer inhumanity of the perpetrators," he said.
Keith noted there have already been a series of investigations into the 7/7 attacks, including a major report by the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).
But he said they had not concentrated on the victims, did not involve their families and were not independent.
Families of victims and survivors have long called for a full public inquiry into the bombings, arguing that official accounts have been insufficient, inaccurate and misleading.
Their demands have been fuelled by revelations in subsequent years that two of the bombers had come onto the radar of the security services but were not deemed significant threats.
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, ministers had stated the men were unknown to the authorities and were "clean skins".
However, the former Labour government rejected inquiry calls, saying there was no evidence to support claims warnings were ignored, and arguing it would distract the stretched security services at a time when the country is at risk.
Evidence given at court cases since 2005 has shown that Tanweer and the bombers' ringleader Khan were photographed, recorded and followed by intelligence operatives several times in early 2004 in the company of plotters later jailed for planning attacks using fertiliser-based bombs.
However, a report by the ISC last year concluded the domestic spy agency MI5 could not have prevented the bombings because it lacked the resources to investigate Khan properly.
Police have always maintained that the four bombers received help from other people with links to al-Qaeda.
However, no one has ever been convicted of any involvement and last year three men were cleared of helping to plot the attacks.