Police today claimed a major breakthrough in the fight against terror after a British man pleaded guilty to conspiring to blow up an aircraft.
The admission by Saajid Badat, 25, of Gloucester, is the first successful major prosecution for terrorism in Britain since 9/11.
Badat pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to conspiring between January 1, 1999, and November 28, 2003, to place a device on an aircraft in service.
He had been due to go on trial today, but changed his plea to guilty.
He appeared in court wearing a grey sweater and a beard which had been trimmed since earlier appearances.
Intelligence services believed Badat had been conspiring with fellow Briton, shoe bomber Richard Reid, who is in jail in America for trying unsuccessfully to ignite a shoe bomb on board a US–bound jet.
Links were made from Belgian telephone cards found on Reid, which were said to have been used by Badat to contact Reid's terrorist contact Nizar Trabelsi, who is in jail in Belgium.
Badat had been living quietly with his family in Gloucester and news of his arrest in November 2003 came as a shock to neighbours.
He had been studying at a mosque in Blackburn.
It is believed that a device, which was not activated, was found when he was arrested but no attempt had been made to place it in a set of shoes.
Inquiries were made in America, Belgium and Holland and a large amount of computer material was analysed.
At a pre–trial hearing, Richard Whittam, prosecuting, told the court: "The defendant has links not only with Richard Reid, connected with America, but with Nizar Trabelsi, arrested in September 2001 and then convicted of planning to attack an American base in Belgium.
"There is a link between this defendant and Richard Reid by Belgian telephone cards. It is a vital detail of the prosecution case," he said.
Badat agreed to be a suicide bomber with the intention of destroying a passenger aircraft while in the air from Europe to the United States, Richard Horwell, prosecuting, said in court today.
He had received training both in Afghanistan and Pakistan and had been given an explosive device specially designed to evade airport security and destroy an aircraft in flight.
The device was identical to that used by Reid when he attempted to bring down an aircraft in December 2001 on a flight from Paris to Miami, said Mr Horwell. A piece of detonating cord from Reid's bomb matched that of Badat's bomb.
Badat returned to the UK December 10, 2001, with the device in his possession.
"It is clear the plan was that Reid and Badat would bring down a passenger aircraft at similar times in late December that year," said Mr Horwell.
Mr Horwell was giving brief facts of the case to the court after the surprise plea of guilty today.
A full hearing is due on March 18, when the prosecution case will be given in detail.
Mr Horwell said that Badat had sent an email on December 14, 2001, four days after his return, "indicating he might withdraw.
"He had booked a ticket to fly from Manchester to Amsterdam in preparation for an onward flight to the United States on which the explosive device would be initiated.
"But he did not take that flight. We accept by then he had withdrawn from the conspiracy which by then he had been party to for an appreciable period of time.
"The device he brought with him to the UK was kept at his home (in Gloucester). He had separated the fuse and the detonator from the plastic explosive."
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Anti–Terrorist Branch, welcomed today's breakthrough.
He told the Press Association: "Three years of intensive and painstaking international investigation brought us to the point where Saajid Badat had no option but to plead guilty to this horrendous offence."
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