The Australian : Airlines bomb plot 'rivalled 9/11'

Friday, April 04, 2008

Airlines bomb plot 'rivalled 9/11'

Sean O'Neill, London | April 05, 2008

ISLAMIST extremists plotted to blow up at least seven simultaneous flights from Britain to North America in an attack of "truly global impact", a prosecutor said yesterday.

The young Britons, aged from 23 to 29, allegedly planned and volunteered to take part in a terrorist suicide mission that would have rivalled the barbarity of September 11. The plot had been finessed in the northeast London suburb of Walthamstow and the town of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

The intention, it was alleged at Woolwich Crown Court yesterday, was to detonate liquid explosive bombs on seven trans-Atlantic airliners that would all have been in mid-flight.

Prosecutor Peter Wright said the seven targeted flights would have all departed within three hours from London on any given afternoon.

Each would have carried between 240 and 285 people.

The flights would all have left Heathrow, en route for Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Washington, Montreal and Toronto.

The fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was within the date range of August to October 2006 discussed by the terror cell's leaders.

A jury was told that the flights allegedly at risk were operated by United Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada.

Mr Wright told the court that a wealth of detailed information about flights and baggage restrictions was found on a USB memory stick in the pocket of one of the alleged leaders of the plot.

Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, was arrested in the carpark of Walthamstow Town Hall on August 9, 2006. Detained with him was Assad Sarwar, 27, of High Wycombe, also alleged to have been a key figure in the conspiracy.

Mr Sarwar had spent an "industrious" day, said Mr Wright, and had been in frequent contact with Mohammed Gulzar, 26, the third organiser of the conspiracy.

"These men were known to each other and shared a common interest that involved inflicting heavy casualties upon an innocent civilian population all in the name of Islam," Mr Wright said. "These men were indifferent to the carnage that was likely to ensue if their plan was successful. What they intended to bring about was a violent and deadly statement of intent that would have had a truly global impact."

They had drawn up detailed plans for improvised explosive devices - hydrogen peroxide disguised in soft drink and mouthwash bottles, to be carried as hand luggage. The bombs would have been assembled in flight. Airlines put tough limits on the amount of liquids and gels passengers can carry on to flights as a result of the alleged plot.

Mr Wright said the men "were actively involved in a deadly plan designed to bring about what would have been, had they been successful, a civilian death toll from an act of terrorism on an almost unprecedented scale".

"They had the cold-eyed certainty of the fanatic, prepared to board an aircraft with the necessary ingredients and equipment to construct and detonate a device which would bring about not only loss of their own lives but the lives of all those taking that journey," he said. "They were almost ready to put the plot into practice. They were not long off."

All eight men, each of whom has family ties to Pakistan, are accused of conspiracy to murder and of planning an act of violence likely to endanger the safety of an aircraft. Both charges carry maximum sentences of life imprisonment. They all deny the charges.

The men are: Ali, 27; Sarwar, 27; Gulzar, 26; Tanvir Hussain, 27; Ibrahim Savant, 27; Arafat Waheed Khan, 26; Waheed Zaman, 23 and Umar Islam, 29.

The is trial expected to last about six months.

The Times, agencies