The ringleaders of a home-grown terror cell were secretly recorded plotting a coordinated suicide attack by eight militants carrying rucksacks stuffed with explosives in what was designed to be the British version of the 9/11 attacks, a court heard today.
The Birmingham-based plotters discussed plans to blow themselves up or set off bombs in crowded areas to cause mass deaths and “carnage in the name of Allah” that would outstrip the death toll in the attacks on the London transport network in 2005, Woolwich Crown Court heard.
Police bugging devices caught one of the men suggesting that the 7/7 strikes seven years ago, which killed 52 people, had “gone a bit wrong” because the suicide attackers had forgotten to put nails in the bombs to cause maximum damage, said Brian Altman QC, for the prosecution.
“The intention was plainly to kill and injure people while achieving their own martyrdom if at all possible,” said Mr Altman on the opening day of the trial at Woolwich Crown Court, southeast London.
Two of the men, Irfan Naseer, 31, a pharmacy graduate, and Irfan Khalid, 27, twice travelled to terrorist training camps in Pakistan and sought to instruct a third man, Ashik Ali, 27, when they returned about making bombs in his Birmingham flat, the court heard.
The three, among 11 men and a woman rounded up by police officers from September last year, were said to be central figures in the plot and were responsible for recruiting others, planning the attack and raising money.
The three defendants, who deny terrorist offences, were said to be inspired by Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born extremist, who was killed in a drone attack along with other militants in the Yemen 12 days after the first of the arrests in Birmingham.
The court heard that Mr Naseer, known as ‘Chubbs or Big Irfan’ and his fellow traveller ‘Little Irfan’ made martyrdom videos which they left behind in Pakistan ready for release after carrying out their plans for a major terrorist attack.
However their plans for a terrorist spectacular were hampered by a string of setbacks. They included the loss of some £9,000 by their chief fundraiser because of “unwise and incompetent” trading on the foreign currency exchanges.
The court heard that the money amounted to the majority of the sums they raised illegally on the streets of Birmingham in the name of the charity Muslim Aid. They planned to use some of the money to set up a dawah, an Islamic teaching centre in Birmingham, which Mr Khalid described as a “beautiful cover” to recruit men for jihad.
Other setbacks included the swift return of four men sent to Pakistan for terror training after one of the men “messed up” and called his family from Pakistan and they organised their return.
The court heard that the three defendants were placed under long-term surveillance before the two Irfans returned from their second long trip to Pakistan.
Bugging devices were put inside the house used as a bomb-making factory at White Street, in Birmingham, and two cars owned by Naseer and the fundraiser Rahin Ahmed, who has already pleaded guilty to terrorist offences, the court heard.
The three defendants were heard talking about killing people using guns, poison and even by fixing blades to a vehicle and driving it into a crowd of people, the court heard. The plan featured in an online extremist magazine, Inspire.
But the men returned to the idea of suicide bombings and setting homemade bombs on timers because of the apparent difficulty of recruiting enough people to carry out the attack, the court heard.
“Although the finer details had not been worked out and agreed upon, the defendants were proposing to detonate up to eight rucksack bombs in a suicide attack and/or detonate bombs on timers in crowded areas in order to cause mass deaths and casualties,” said Mr Altman. “As you will hear, one of them was even to describe their plan as ‘another 9/11’.”
The plot was broken up before they named any “iconic targets” and while the defendants were still suggesting that the day of the attack was up to two years away, the court heard.
In the days before the arrests, the three men had been experimenting in the kitchen of Mr Ali’s flat to develop a device using the ingredients from a sports injury cold pack which they wrongly believed contained ammonium nitrate, said Mr Altman.
During police interviews after his arrest, Ashik Ali confessed that the plot involved him wearing a suicide vest and carrying a gun but he denied that he would have carried out an attack, the court heard.
The case continues.