London carnage avoided 'only because plotters got bomb mix wrong'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Five of the six men accused of plotting a series of "murderous suicide bombings" on London's Tube trains and buses on 21 July 2005 had been secretly photographed by police more than a year beforehand on what may have been a camping trip for Islamic extremists in the Lake District, a court heard.

Police officers had watched the group lined up in Islamic prayer and being addressed by another person, during the camping trip in the Langdale area of Cumbria over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend in 2004. Nigel Sweeney, QC, prosecuting at Woolwich Crown Court, said it was up to the jury to consider what the purpose of the trip might have been.

Mr Sweeney was opening the case for the prosecution at the beginning of what is expected to be a four-month trial of the six men, who are said to have organised "an extremist Muslim plot" to target London's transport system with bombs packed with nails and screws, 14 days after what he called the "carnage" of the July 7 bombings.

However, Mr Sweeney said the plot had been hatched as early as March 2005 and was not "some hastily arranged copycat" of the July 7 bombings, despite the fact that one of the bombs had been deployed on a bus sometime after the others. Neither was it, as one of the defendants had suggested after his arrest, a deliberate hoax designed to make a political point, he said. The reason the bombs, made from a mixture of chemicals and chapatti flour, had not exploded, said Mr Sweeney, was because the plotters had failed to make the correct concentration of explosive material.

The six men charged with conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause explosions likely to endanger life are Muktar Said Ibrahim, 28, from Stoke Newington, north London; Ramzi Mohammed, 25, from North Kensington, west London; Yassin Omar, 26, from New Southgate, north London; Hussain Osman, 28, of Stockwell, south London; Manfo Kwaku Asiedu, 33, of no fixed address; and Adel Yahya, 24, from High Road, Tottenham. All deny the charges.

The role of Ibrahim, Asiedu, Osman, Omar and Mohammed was ultimately "that of would-be suicide bombers" while Yahya was involved in "essential preparation done in furtherance of the conspiracy" although he left the country nearly six weeks before July 21.

The bombs were made, Mr Sweeney said, at Omar's flat at Curtis House in New Southgate, using materials bought from local shops. They were carried in rucksacks and packed around with tacks, screws and washers as "shrapnel".

The extremist background

All six defendants originally came from Africa, lived in various parts of London and were known to each other "in various combinations" by the summer of 2005. There was evidence that Ibrahim, Omar, Osman and Yahya, "all held extremist views", and that Ibrahim, Osman and Yahya had all spoken about carrying out Jihad in Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya.

At the homes of Omar and Osman, police had found "a mass of religious, extremists, Muslim material, including home-made films featuring images of beheadings and other terrorist atrocities, including 9/11".

Ibrahim, Osman, Omar, Yahya and Mohammed had been photographed by police at Langdale from April 30 to May 3. There was also evidence that Ibrahim had been on a training camp in Sudan in 2003 and had gone to Pakistan in December 2004 to take part in Jihad or to train for it. On that occasion, he had been detained at Heathrow with two other men and said he was a Sunni Muslim travelling to Pakistan for a wedding. When his luggage was searched, he was found to have £5,000 in cash, a sleeping bag and cold weather clothing, the court was told.

Witnesses would testify, said Mr Sweeney, that both Ibrahim and Omar had visited Finsbury Park mosque and heard the preacher Abu Hamza. Additionally, said Mr Sweeney, in February 2005, Omar had heard his imam at Finchley mosque deliver a sermon saying that suicide bombing was against Islamic law; Omar told him he did not agree.

The day's events

The night before the planned bombings, the men, apart from Yahya, met at Mohammed's flat in Dalgarno Gardens, west London. The next morning, Ibrahim, Omar and Mohammed drove to Stockwell Tube station in south London.

At Stockwell, wearing a top with the words "New York" emblazoned across it, which was "no doubt connected with the events of 9/11", Mohammed took a Northern Line train towards the City of London. Mr Sweeney said: "In the tunnel, [between Stockwell and Oval], Mohammed turned so that his rucksack was facing a mother with a pushchair and then detonated, causing panic, fear and confusion, even though the main charge had failed to go off."

Ibrahim took a Northern Line train to the City a few minutes after Mohammed. At Bank station he caught a number 26 bus. As the bus reached the junction of Shoreditch High Street and Hackney Road shortly after 1pm, he detonated his bomb, Mr Sweeney told the court.

Omar allegedly boarded a Victoria Line train travelling north from Stockwell. As the train approached Warren Street, he detonated his bomb "with the same effect" - not exploding properly - but causing panic and confusion, the court heard.

Osman allegedly boarded a Hammersmith and City line train at Westbourne Park and detonated the bomb between Latimer Road and Shepherd's Bush. A gym membership card with his photograph on was found inside the rucksack containing the bomb, the court was told. Mr Sweeny said Asiedu "lost his nerve at the last moment" and dumped his bomb in a wooded area in Little Wormwood Scrubs where it was found two days later.

The men, said Mr Sweeney, had been connected to their bombs by CCTV, DNA and fingerprint evidence. It was not clear why the bombs had failed to explode, said Mr Sweeney, but was probably related to hot weather, degradation of the material or problems with manufacture. "The failure of these bombs to explode owed nothing to the intentions of the defendants - rather it was simply the good fortune of the travelling public that they were spared," he said.

Arrests

In the aftermath of the failed explosions, all the men fled. Mr Sweeney said there was evidence that Ibrahim, Asiedu and Omar were all involved in an attempt the following day to clear out the bomb factory at Curtis House. The following day, Omar was captured on CCTV at Golders Green coach station in north London and at Birmingham coach station disguised in a burka. He was arrested at a house in Birmingham the following Wednesday. "He was found fully clothed, stood in a bath, wearing a rucksack on his back," said Mr Sweeney.

Ibrahim and Mohammed were arrested at Mohammed's flat in Dalgarno Gardens two days later.

Osman caught a train from Waterloo to Paris. He then travelled to Rome, where he had another brother, and he was arrested on 29 July. He claimed to police that the bombs were a "political hoax".

After Asiedu dumped his bomb, he tried to convey the impression of a man "carrying on his life as normal", Mr Sweeney said. On 26 July he went to the police, but "not to tell the truth", he alleged. Instead, he "lied on an epic scale" to keep up the pretence that he only happened to know two of the defendants, Mr Sweeney told the jury. The evidence that it was a suicide plot came from the fact that Mohammed had written a suicide note, while Osman had admitted in interviews that there was no plan for what happened after the bombs went off.

The suspects

* Muktar Said Ibrahim, 28

From Stoke Newington, north London, although he spent most of his time at Curtis House. Originally from Ethiopia. Also used the name Muktar Mohammed Said on UK passport and bank accounts. Detonated bomb on number 26 bus in Hackney.

* Manfo Kwaku Asiedu, 33

Of no fixed address. Asiedu had come to the UK in 2003 on a Ghanaian passport with a false name and later assumed the name of Asiedu. Lost his nerve and dumped bomb on Little Wormwood Scrubs. Went to police pretending not to know about plot.

* Hussain Osman, 28

Lived near Stockwell station with wife and children. Detonated bomb on Hammersmith and City Line near Shepherd's Bush. Arrested in Rome. He later admitted to police that Osman was not his real name and that he was Ethiopian rather than Somalian.

* Yassin Omar, 26

From Curtis House, New Southgate, north London. Detonated bomb on Victoria Line Tube, near Warren Street station. Somalian-born, came to Britain in the early 1990's. In foster care until he was 18; studied at Enfield College. Others among the accused regularly visited the flat, which became the "bomb factory". Arrested in Birmingham after fleeing disguised in burka.

* Ramzi Mohammed, 25

From North Kensington, west London; Came from Somalia in the late 1990's; had two young sons who lived with mother in south London. Detonated bomb on Northern Line at Oval. Said to have left suicide note and possibly suicide video.

* Adel Yahya, 24

From High Road, Tottenham, north London. Born in Ethiopia and lived in Yemen. Knew Omar since school. Was studying computers at London Metropolitan University. Left London in June 2005, but alleged to have been part of the plot.