CBC : Montreal, Toronto flights targeted in alleged British bomb plot

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Montreal, Toronto flights targeted in alleged British bomb plot

April 3, 2008

Air Canada flights to Toronto and Montreal were among seven planes allegedly targeted in a massive bomb plot that was being planned in Britain, a court in west London heard Thursday.

All seven flights were scheduled to take off from London's Heathrow airport in 2006 and fly across the Atlantic Ocean, with the other planes destined for Washington, Chicago, New York and San Francisco.

No further details were immediately available.

Prosecutors allege eight British men planned to carry small bombs — made with liquid explosives — in plastic drink containers on board the planes.

The suspects were arrested on Aug. 10, 2006, in a two-day police sweep that led to the cancellations of hundreds of flights in and out of Britain. The incident changed the way passengers around the world fly, as airlines placed restrictions on carrying liquids, gels and aerosols aboard planes.

John O'Connor, a former commander with Scotland Yard's anti-terrorism unit, told CBC News Thursday that it's not surprising that Canadian flights were among the targets.

"It might seem difficult for Canadians to understand, but when you're looking at Canada and America, one tends to on this side of the Atlantic combine them as one, and I'm sure that's what the terrorists do," he said from London.

"They see them as very close cousins, and they wouldn't discriminate them against one or the other…. As far as the insurgents are concerned, any Western country which is an ally of the United States is going to be seen as a legitimate target."

The British bomb plot trial is expected to last eight months, with Judge David Calvert-Smith warning 100 prospective jurors during a selection hearing on Wednesday that proceedings would be long and complex.

Ahmed Abdullah Ali, Assad Sarwar, Tanvir Hussain, Umar Islam, Arafat Waheed Khan, Ibrahim Savant, Waheed Zaman and Mohammed Gulzar are the eight charged.

All eight are accused of conspiracy to murder and of planning acts of violence likely to endanger the safety of an aircraft. Both charges carry maximum sentences of life imprisonment.