Eight 'plotted to blow up flights with liquid bombs'

Eight men plotted to use "home-made bombs" disguised as soft drinks to blow up transatlantic planes, a court heard today.

Prosecutor Peter Wright told a jury at Woolwich Crown Court that the group intended to cause civilian deaths on an "unprecedented scale".

Opening the case, Mr Wright said two men, Abdulla Ahmed Ali and Assad Sarwar, were the ringleaders of the deadly Islamic fundamentalist conspiracy.

The prosecutor said the two men, who lived in Walthamstow, east London, and High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, shared an "interest" in leading the plot to a murderous conclusion.

He said: "It was an interest that involved inflicting heavy casualties upon an unwitting civilian population all in the name of Islam.

"The means by which they intended to inflict heavy casualties on ordinary civilians was by the carrying out of a series of co-ordinated and deadly explosions.

"These men were indifferent to the carnage that was likely to ensue if their plans were successful. To them the identities of their victims was an irrelevance by race, colour, religion or creed.

"What these men intended to bring about together and with others was a violent and deadly statement of intent that would have a truly global impact.

"It's that they intended, with others, to cause a series of co-ordinated explosions aboard a number of transatlantic passenger aircraft.

"The explosions were to be caused by the detonation in-flight of home-made bombs commonly referred to as improvised explosive devices."



All eight men each deny conspiracy to murder, contrary to the 1977 Criminal Law Act, linked to an alleged plot counter-terrorist police claimed to have foiled in August 2006.

Those in the dock are: Abdulla Ahmed Ali, aka Ahmed Ali Khan, 28, of Prospect Hill, Walthamstow; Assad Sarwar, 28, of Walton Drive, High Wycombe; Tanvir Hussain, 27, of Nottingham Road, Leyton, east London; Ibrahim Savant, 28, of Denver Road, Stoke Newington, north London; Arafat Waheed Khan, 27, of Farnan Avenue, Walthamstow; Waheed Zaman, 24, of Queen's Road, Walthamstow; Umar Islam, aka Brian Young, 30, of Bushey Road, Plaistow, east London; and Donald Stewart-Whyte, 22, of Hepplewhite Close, High Wycombe.

Savant, Khan, Zaman, Islam and Stewart-Whyte face one additional charge of conspiracy to murder, which again they deny.

The trial is expected to last 10 months.



Mr Wright said the bombs would be made from everyday household items so they could be smuggled on board and detonated in mid-flight.

He said: "The component parts of these improvised devices would be designed to resemble soft drinks bottles and their contents, batteries and other seemingly innocuous items that were to be carried on board the aircraft disguised as part of their hand luggage.

"Once assembled, these items would have the capacity of being detonated with devastating consequences.

"The devices were to be smuggled on to the aircraft and were to be detonated in flight by suicide bombers prepared to lose their lives in this way.

"Inevitably such an event would have fatal consequences for the various passengers and crew who happened, quite by chance, to be flying to North America on the day selected by them to commit this atrocity.

"Consequently, it is the Crown's case that these men and others were actively engaged in a most deadly plot 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."



Mr Wright said Ali and Sarwar were arrested by counter-terrorism police as they met on August 9, 2006.

He said the men and other conspirators had been extremely busy over the previous weeks and were "almost ready" to launch the terror strike.

Mr Wright said: "Had this plot not been frustrated by the timely arrest of these men, the disaster they contemplated was not far off.

"In the UK Ali and Sarwar were the men with the principal responsibility for achieving this goal.

"The others who sit in the dock are some of those prepared to lose their lives in the pursuit of it.

"They are men with the cold-eyed certainty of the fanatic, prepared to board a passenger aircraft with the materials required in order to construct and detonate a device that would bring about not only the loss of their own life but also all of those who happened by chance to be making the same journey."

Ali was an "influential figure who led by example", the court heard.

Mr Wright said he "exalted the virtues of martyrdom as a modern-day method of warfare".

The prosecutor added that Ali was responsible for identifying other young Muslims with the same goals or who were vulnerable to radicalisation.

Mr Wright said: "They were prepared to strike a blow in which they would lose their lives but it was a blow that would reverberate across the globe."



Mr Wright said while some defendants were simply "foot soldiers", the planning and research was the responsibility of others, both in Britain and Pakistan.

But he said the flurry of activity came to the attention of the authorities, and the men were watched by surveillance officers.

Mr Wright said: "In the days leading up to August 9, 2006, Ali and Sarwar were extremely busy.

"Sarwar frequently contacted Ali and also another man, named Mohammed Gulzar.

"You may conclude on the evidence you hear that these men had a great deal to discuss, and that the nature of the contact between them and Pakistan during this time militates against it being for any social purpose.

"It is the Crown's case that this plot was being directed from Pakistan.

"This was not something that had been devised merely by Ali and Sarwar once they had realised they shared a common interest, this was part of a much wider scheme of things.

"Acts of terrorism on an international scale, directed from abroad using home-grown terrorists, young, radicalised Muslims prepared to lose their lives in a global act of jihad."



Mr Wright told the court that a computer memory stick containing details of flights from Heathrow Airport to various North American destinations was found in Ali's pocket when he was arrested.

It had details of flights operated by three carriers - American Airlines, United Airlines and Air Canada - from August to October 2006.

Seven services were highlighted, all leaving from Terminal 3 of the London airport and all due to be mid-flight at the same time.

He said: "The highlighting of these daily flights does not appear to have been accident or coincidence because, if each of these aircraft took off in accordance with the schedule as appeared on the timetable found on the memory stick found in the possession of Mr Ali, if each of these aircraft were to take off, the situation would arise that these aircraft would be found in flight between the UK and North America carrying a cargo of passengers and crew running into the hundreds at least."

The planes were travelling to Montreal and Toronto in Canada and San Francisco, Washington, Chicago and New York in the US.



The flights which had been researched were all one-way, Mr Wright told the jurors, a fact which they may decide had a "quite chilling significance".

He said: "These flights were particularly vulnerable to a coordinated attack on them in flight. If each of these flights were successfully blown up the potential for loss of life was considerable.

"There was little if any chance of saving any of them from disaster because once the mid-flight explosions began the authorities would be powerless to stop the other flights meeting a similar fate because they would already be in mid-air and carrying a similar cargo."

The conspirators may have also plotted to attack other flights leaving from different London terminals, the court heard.

Mr Wright said: "Terrifying as this concept may be it is the Crown's case that the conspirators did not confine their ambitions merely to the coordinated destruction of these seven in flight."

Two of the plot's key figures were overheard discussing other flights and as many as 18 suicide bombers, the jury was told.

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