Five 'arrested days before launching UK terror attack'

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The Independent Online

Five men linked to a UK terror plot which would cause "mass casualties" were arrested days before they planned to strike, a court heard today.

A British intelligence officer, identified only as ZR, told the Special Immigration Appeals Commission that the group was set to stage an atrocity between April 15 and 20 last year.

He told the hearing that Abid Naseer exchanged coded emails with an al-Qa'ida operative called Sohaib while planning the attack.

The pair used girls' names to cover their tracks, the officer said.

He told the hearing: "On the face of it the emails are designed to look, without knowledge of the surrounding context, they're designed to look like correspondence between two people about girls."

ZR went on: "I don't assess this to be two young men simply talking about girls. I think it's two people discussing attack planning on behalf of al Qaida."

Naseer and Ahmed Faraz Khan are appealing against their deportation to Pakistan on the grounds that they are a national security risk.

Another three men - Shoaib Khan, Abdul Wahab Khan and Tariq Ur Rehman - have already been sent back to the country and are appealing to return to the UK.

ZR compared the alleged plan to the July 7 attacks and the airline bomb plot, but refused to reveal details of the similarities in open court.

He said: "The overarching similar fashion was that they were all planning a terrorist attack in the UK under the direction of al Qaida and these were aiming for mass casualties."

The officer went on: "I'm comfortable that there are similarities between those plots and I'm comfortable to talk about that in closed session."

Representing Naseer, Joel Bennathan QC said Naseer and Sohaib used women's names because as Muslim men this was the only way they could access certain websites.

The subject of two of the emails was "Sohaib here", which showed they had nothing to hide, he said.

Mr Bannathan told ZR: "You know, don't you, that in Pakistan in public, senior figures in the Pakistani government have been saying 'these boys are innocent, they should be allowed to carry on with their studies'."

The officer replied: "The claims that these individuals are not involved in terrorism are wrong."