The '£7,000 terror plot'

The alleged plan to blow up 10 airliners has cost Britain £300m, but would have taken just a few thousand pounds to execute
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The alleged plot to blow up transatlantic airliners, described as one of the most highly sophisticated terrorist operations ever organised, would have cost less than £ 7,000 to carry out, according to security sources.

Estimates vary on the total cost of the disruption caused last month by the alleged plot. But all sources agree it is upwards of £300m. British Airways alone lost £40m in the week after police arrested the alleged plotters.

It had been claimed that huge sums of money were transferred from Pakistan to "blow up" as many as 10 aircraft packed with passengers heading for the US.

However, the alleged attacks would have cost no more than the money estimated to have been spent on the 7/7 suicide bombings in London last year, and there is no evidence of vast amounts of money coming from abroad.

Despite the widespread destructive capabilities of the alleged plan, described as "mass murder on an unimaginable scale" by Scotland Yard deputy chief commissioner Paul Stephenson, and its international dimensions, the actual costs incurred would have been relatively little, say investigators.

The explosive mixture, which would allegedly have been used to produce bombs on board the planes, including a volatile liquid known as HMTD, is fairly inexpensive to buy.

Seven "martyrdom videos", allegedly made by six suspects, one allegedly stating "as you bomb, you will be bombed; as you kill, you will be killed", would have had a total production cost of less than £15. The police also allegedly found computer memory cards, CDs and DVDs containing details of the attack, altogether costing less than £500.

Two of the alleged plotters did not even have passports. The maximum costs of two passports obtained under a fast-track system in a day would have been just over £200.

Other items allegedly recovered in connection with the plot included plastic buckets, batteries, empty drinks bottles, digital scales and a disposable camera.

The biggest cost of such an attack would have been the airline tickets. However, it is believed that the suspects had not made any reservations or purchased any tickets. The buying of the tickets, it is claimed, would have taken place at the last minute.

One source said: "There was an awful lot in the media about how money had poured in from Pakistan. But there is absolutely no evidence of this. Does it really make sense for money to be sent from an impoverished country like Pakistan to a vastly wealthy place like Britain? Sympathisers here could easily subsidise attacks. In any case, such an operation would have been very cheap to mount".

There is also no evidence, despite media reports to the contrary, that any "terrorist mastermind" had flown in from overseas to run the mission.

According to security sources, most of the alleged terrorist plots that have been discovered in this country were organised by small groups of people. "We have not come across any evidence of a grand, well-funded al-Qa'ida branch here," said a source.

"There is very little or no connection between the various groups of people we have arrested on different jobs.

"What we are talking about, effectively, are home-grown plots using material which is easy to get hold of and pretty cheap to buy."