Four charged with plotting terror attacks

Court told gang planned to use explosives and guns in attacks inspired by al-Qa'ida

Four men arrested in Luton last week appeared in court yesterday accused of a range of terrorist offences including discussing plans for carrying out attacks with guns and explosives.

Zahid Iqbal, 30, Mohammed Sharfaraz Ahmed, 24, Syed Hussain, 21, and Umar Arshad, 23, appeared for a 20-minute hearing at Westminster magistrates court in central London yesterday charged with committing, helping others, or preparing for acts of terrorism. They spoke only to confirm their names and their dates of birth.

The men – all from Luton – were also accused of having downloaded documents that were likely to be useful for terrorists. They included the al-Qa'ida manual, the Explosives Course 2, 21 Techniques of Silent Killing and 44 Ways to Support Jihad. Each man was also accused of having six copies of the al-Qa'ida magazine Inspire.

The four men, and one other, were arrested last week following a coordinated operation by the Metropolitan Police at their homes in Luton.

Piers Arnold, a prosecutor from the special crime and counter terrorism division of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: "After carefully considering evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police Service, I have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and that it is in the public interest to jointly charge... with an offence contrary to section 5 (1) of the Terrorism Act 2006." The maximum sentence for such an offence is life imprisonment.

The fifth man was released without charge because of insufficient evidence.

The men were charged with alleged offences covering a period from January 2011, to 25 April 2012. The alleged conduct linked to terrorism included encouraging travel overseas, organising physical training and buying survival equipment, according to the charge sheet.

The men were accused of downloading files containing instructions for a terrorist attack and discussing the methods to carry them out, including using guns and improvised explosive devices.

They were also accused of collecting and supplying funds for terrorist purposes overseas. District Judge Daphne Wickham remanded the men in custody, to appear at the Old Bailey on 11 May.