Court told of terror gang's plan for bomb campaign

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The Independent Online

A gang of British Islamic extremists was planning a dramatic bombing campaign in the UK in 2004, possibly against pubs, nightclubs, trains, or power plants, a court was told yesterday. Two of the seven-strong terrorist team from the south of England were working for al-Qa'ida's third in command, the Old Bailey heard.

But the gang, some of whom were taught how to make fertiliser bombs at training camps in Pakistan, were foiled after a major MI5 and police surveillance operation, a jury was told.

The British-based terror team had aimed to kill and maim UK citizens with a massive 600kg fertiliser bomb partly as revenge for this country's support of the United States, it is claimed.

The accused, all of whom are British citizens, are: Omar Khyam, 24, Waheed Mahmood, 34, Shujah Mahmood, 19, and Jawad Akbar, 22, all from Crawley, West Sussex; Anthony Garcia (also known as Rahman Adam), 23, of Ilford, east London; Nabeel Hussain, 20, of Horley, Surrey; and Salahuddin Amin, 31, from Luton, Bedfordshire.

They deny conspiring between January 2003 and March 2004, with Mohammed Momin Khawaja, a Canadian, and with others unknown, to "cause by explosive substances, an explosion or explosions of a nature likely to endanger life".

Mr Khyam, Mr Garcia and Mr Hussain also deny a charge under the Terrorism Act 2000 of possession an article for terrorism - 600kg of ammonium nitrate fertiliser - between 5 November 2003 and 31 March 2004 at a west London storage depot.

Mr Khyam and Shujah Mahmood are further accused of possessing aluminium powder for purposes connected with terrorism between October 2003 and March 2004.

Opening the prosecution case at the start of their trial, which is expected to last six months, David Waters QC said: "[The defendants] played their respective roles in a plan to acquire the ingredients necessary to manufacture a bomb or bombs which would be deployed at the very least to destroy strategic [power] plant within the United Kingdom, or more realistically to kill and injure citizens of the UK."

Mr Waters told the jury the explosion or explosions were to take place in the UK but a great deal of the preparation was to be made in Pakistan and in Canada.

Mr Khyam, who is accused of being one of the ringleaders, is accused of telling an American who has already pleaded guilty in the United States to a British bomb plot, "that he wanted to do operations in the UK".

The court heard that no final target had been chosen, although one of the defendants, Waheed Mahmood, had been working for National Grid Transco, the company operates the high voltage electricity system in England and Wales and the high pressure gas system in Britain.

The prosecutor added that Mr Khyam told the American, Mohammed Babar, his motivation was that "the UK was unscathed, it needed to be hit because of its support for the US".

Mr Khyam, Mr Amin and un-named "brothers" were working for al-Qa'ida's third in command, a man named Abdul Hadi, the court was told. Another of the defendants, Mr Waheed, was recorded telling the Mr Babar that he "couldn't understand why people were coming all the way to Pakistan or Afghanistan to fight when they should be fighting Jihad in the Uk and conducting operations there," Mr Waters told the jury.

As part of a huge surveillance operation by MI5, Special Branch and the Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist squad listening bugs were placed at an address where Mr Khyam was staying in Slough, Berkshire, and at Mr Akbar's then home in Uxbridge, west London. Another listening device was placed in Mr Khyam's car. The alleged terrorist team were arrested on 30 March 2004.

The trial continues.