Suspect 'tried to buy dirty bomb from Russians'

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A member of a British terrorist cell who was working for an al-Qa'ida commander was plotting to buy a radioactive bomb, the Old Bailey was told.

A gang of Islamic extremists also discussed using a fertiliser bomb to attack targets including the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent and "the biggest nightclub in central London", the jury heard.

Seven men, all British citizens, are accused of plotting to carry out explosions in London using bombs made from ammonium nitrate and aluminium powder. The alleged plot was foiled by police and MI5.

One of the alleged gang, Salahuddin Amin, 31, from Luton, Bedfordshire, was also involved in a plot to buy a nuclear bomb from the Russian mafia, it was alleged. Mr Amin, who is accused of working for al-Qa'ida's third-in-command, had information passed to him via the internet about a "radio-isotope bomb" while he was in Pakistan, David Waters QC, for the prosecution, said, and the plan was to buy the device from Russian criminals in Belgium. His involvement in the alleged plot was said to have stemmed from an association with a man named Abu Munthir whom he met via a mosque in Luton.

Mr Amin told police later he did not believe the offer could be genuine. Mr Waters said: "In his [Mr Amin's] own words he didn't think it was likely "that you can go and pick an atomic bomb up and use it".

The alleged conspiracy involving all seven defendants involved remote control detonators and 600kg (1,300lb) of ammonium nitrate fertiliser. They are accused of conspiring to cause explosions likely to endanger life between January 2003 and March 2004. All the defendants deny the charges against them. They are: Omar Khyam, 24, his brother Shujah Mahmood, 19, Waheed Mahmood, 34, and Jawad Akbar, 22, all from Crawley, West Sussex; Mr Amin, 31, from Luton; Anthony Garcia, 23, of Ilford, east London; and Nabeel Hussain, 20, of Horley, Surrey.

The court was told that they were arrested in March 2004 when plans were in their "final phase".

On 22 February 2004 they were recorded via a hidden listening bug discussing possible bomb targets, the court was told. Mr Waters said: "Jawad Akbar referred to attacks upon the utilities, gas, water or electrical supplies. Alternatively, a big nightclub in central London might be a target."

Mr Akbar allegedly said: "The biggest nightclub in central London, no one can put their hands up and say they are innocent - those slags dancing around."

Later, he was recorded saying: "I think the club thing you could do but the gas would be much harder," the court heard.

One of the other defendants, Waheed Mahmood, was employed by Morrisons Utility Services, a Transco contractor. National Grid Transco runs the high voltage electricity system in England and Wales and the high-pressure gas system in Britain. On 19 March 2004, Waheed Mahmood was recorded saying the Madrid al-Qa'ida bombings, in which 192 people were killed, were "absolutely beautiful". The court was told that he then raised the possibility of planting a bomb at the Bluewater shopping centre the following day. He suggested "a little explosion at Bluewater, tomorrow if you want. I don't know how big it would be, we haven't tested it, but we could tomorrow, do one tomorrow."

When it was suggested that the Madrid bombings should have been carried out in June to target families on holiday, Shujah Mahmood said "fantissimo", the court was told.

All but one of the gang were said to have trained in terror camps in Pakistan, with some being taught how to make the poison ricin.

The jury heard details of how the alleged gang gathered the materials to make a bomb. The ammonium nitrate fertiliser was bought from an agricultural merchant in Burgess Hill, Sussex, in November 2003 by a man called "John" ( alleged to beAnthony Garcia) and who said it was for his allotment. The fertiliser was found at a self-storage depot in Hanwell, west London.

The trial continues