Four men inspired by al-Qa'ida admitted plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange yesterday. Five other men have pleaded guilty to other terrorism offences and all nine will be sentenced next week. A handwritten target list found at the home of one of the men included the names and addresses of the London Mayor Boris Johnson, two rabbis, the American embassy and the Stock Exchange.
The nine men, who are all British nationals, were followers of Anwar Al-Awlaki, the senior al-Qa'ida recruiter and planner killed four months ago in a US drone attack in Yemen. They kept copies of al-Qa'ida's Inspire magazine, which aims to galvanise Western radicals to bring terror to their own countries by offering fundamentalist teachings and instructions on making bombs.
Four of the gang admitted the Stock Exchange plot, while five accomplices admitted associated terrorism offences.
The men wanted to send mail bombs and also discussed launching a "Mumbai-style" atrocity. They were followed by undercover police observing landmarks such as Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey and recorded researching how to make pipe bombs and talking of raising funds to send British citizens to training camps abroad.
When they were arrested, the man accused of being the "lynchpin" of the gang, Mohammed Chowdhury, 21, had a list of targets as well as a sketch of what appeared to be a car bomb.
Their primary aim, Andrew Edis QC, for the prosecution, explained, was to cause terror and economic damage but their actions would undoubtedly have "maimed and killed" innocent people.
The nine men, aged between 20 and 30, had all denied terrorism charges but yesterday, on the eve of a five-month trial at Woolwich Crown Court, they each pleaded guilty.
Mr Justice Wilkie is expected to sentence the men next week. Chowdhury, the key connection between a group of men from London, Cardiff and Stoke, was told he could expect a sentence of more than 13 years with a five-year extended-licence period. He has already served 13 months on remand and could be free in six years.
Chowdhury, along with fellow Londoner Shah Rahman, 29, and Abdul Miah, 25, and Gurukanth Desai, 30, both from Cardiff, admitted plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange.
Three others, Nazam Hussain, 26, Usman Khan, 20, and Mohammed Shahjahan, 27, all from Stoke, admitted attending meetings to discuss attacks, as well as raising funds to send British men to training camps in Kashmir.
"It was clear that acts of terrorism would be committed on that person's return," Mr Edis said.
Omar Latif, 28, from Cardiff, pleaded guilty to attending meetings at which terrorist attacks were discussed, while Mohibur Rahman, 27, from Stoke, admitted owning copies of Inspire, which included articles such as "Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom".
The men were recorded as they met for the first time in a park in Cardiff on 7 November 2010, the start of numerous gatherings and hundreds of calls to each other over six weeks. The London and Cardiff groups, all of Bangladeshi origin, discussed sending five mail bombs and plans to detonate a bomb in the toilets of the London Stock Exchange just before Christmas 2010. On 28 November, Chowdhury and Shah Rahman were followed as they went around looking at London landmarks.
A few weeks later the pair were recorded experimenting with how to make a pipe bomb. During the same period, Miah and Desai were seen setting light to something outside the latter's Cardiff home. Their Stoke counterparts, of Pakistani origin, talked of leaving home-made explosives in local pubs.
The police decided to act and raided addresses across the country, arresting the nine men on 20 December 2010.
The targets: London in their sights
On the trail
Big Ben, Parliament, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Blackfriars Bridge and the Church of Scientology were visited by Mohammed Chowdhury and Shah Rahman on 28 November 2010. They were followed by police before they stopped off at McDonald's and headed home. The addresses for Boris Johnson, two rabbis and the American embassy as well as the letters LXC (London Stock Exchange) were found on a handwritten list at Chowdhury's home along with a sketch of what appeared to be a car bomb.
Mohammed Chowdhury, 21, a Bangladeshi living in east London, was described as the lynchpin of the gang and admitted plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange. He used the nickname JMB – the terror group Jammat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh.
Gurukanth Desai, 30, a father-of-three of Bangladeshi origin living in Cardiff. He admitted plotting to plant a
bomb at the London Stock Exchange.
Abdul Miah, 25, brother of Desai, and a married father-of-one living in Cardiff. He also admitted plotting to plant a bomb at the London Stock Exchange.
Shah Rahman, 29, a Bangladeshi living in east London. He admitted plotting to plant a bomb at the London Stock Exchange.