Terror plot suspect admits he talked of blowing up Parliament

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The Independent Online

A 24-year-old former university student accused of plotting to carry out terror attacks in Britain has admitted talking about blowing up the Houses of Parliament.

Omar Khyam, who is one of seven men charged with conspiring to build a huge fertiliser bomb, told a jury at the Old Bailey yesterday that he discussed dropping a bomb on MPs during Prime Minister's Questions.

But the self-confessed al-Qa'ida sympathiser from Crawley, West Sussex, said his comments were "just talk" and that there was no plan to carry out an attack.

He told the court: "I remember I was watching on a Wednesday, the Prime Minister's Questions, and we just made a comment, 'Can you imagine if you dropped a bomb right there and then? You would take out all the MPs.' " Asked who had made the comment, Mr Khyam answered: "I did." Asked what the reaction of the others was, he said: "They just laughed."

The defence barrister, Joel Bennathan, then asked: "Was that a serious proposition?" Mr Khyam replied: "No."

The jury heard that the incident happened while he was watching television in Pakistan in 2003 with Mohammed Babar, an al-Qa'ida supergrass, and alleged accomplice.

The prosecution alleges that Mr Khyam and his fellow defendants were planning a bombing campaign in Britain, with possible targets including a nightclub and a shopping centre.

Mr Bennathan asked Mr Khyam: "Did you ever have a discussion with Mr Babar about carrying out an attack on the UK? A serious discussion?" "No," said Mr Khyam.

The court heard how Mr Khyam and Mr Babar had worked together in Pakistan channelling funds and equipment to Islamist fighters in the region.

Mr Khyam denied having explosives training in Pakistan or watching experiments with bombs.

The prosecution claims that the defendant, who studied at East Surrey College and had begun a foundation degree in computing and mathematics at the University of North London, smuggled aluminium powder into Britain to use as a component in a bomb. But Mr Khyam, who on Thursday admitted he was "happy" on hearing about the 11 September 2001 terror attacks, said the powder was for aluminium paint. He said he brought 10 sachets of aluminium powder to the UK after an uncle asked him for aluminium paint.

Mr Khyam also denied he had sent £2,500 to Mr Babar to buy detonators in Pakistan.

Mr Khyam said he had met a man named Tariq through another defendant, Salahuddin Amin, in Pakistan. He told jurors how he believed Tariq was moving the money and funds he provided to the tribal regions of the north-west frontier of Pakistan. "He was helping the cause in Afghanistan."

Mr Bennathan asked the defendant: "During your time in Afghanistan and the tribal regions did you meet people who were probably classed as al-Qa'ida?" "Yes, probably," said Mr Khyam.

Mr Bennathan asked: "If people are under the banner of al-Qa'ida and fighting in Afghanistan, would you have any criticism of them doing so?" "No," said Mr Khyam.

Mr Khyam, his brother Shujah Mahmood, 19, Waheed Mahmood, 34, and Jawad Akbar, 23, all from Crawley, Salahuddin Amin, 31, from Luton, Bedfordshire, Anthony Garcia, 24, of Ilford, east London, and Nabeel Hussain, 21, of Horley, Surrey, deny conspiring to cause explosions likely to endanger life between 1 January 2003 and 31 March 2004.

Mr Khyam, Mr Garcia and Mr Hussain also deny a charge under the Terrorism Act of possessing 600kg (1,300lb) of ammonium nitrate fertiliser for terrorism. Mr Khyam and Shujah Mahmood further deny possessing aluminium powder for terrorism.

The trial continues.