The faces that have put Britain close to the centre of al-Qa'ida

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The Independent Online

They involve militants from many backgrounds, from known Islamist radicals, to obscure north African immigrants like Kamel Bourgass, down to British converts like Richard Reid, the shoe bomber.

The unifying thread is their alleged links to prominent clerics such as Abu Qatada, or involvement with militant mosques. Until Thursday's bombings, however, the UK has served chiefly as a recruiting ground, a base for fund-raising and hatching plots.

Defence lawyers insist most plots involve conflicts overseas, such as Chechnya, Afghanistan and in North Africa. Yet several plots to attack British targets have been uncovered, including one to build a radioactive "dirty bomb" and another a massive "fertiliser bomb". The only major conspiracy trial so far, is of Bourgass.

Sajid Badat

Jailed in April for 13 years, Badat planned to set off a shoe bomb on a flight to the US but changed his mind. The dismantled device was found in a raid on his Gloucester home in November 2003.

Badat, 25, pleaded guilty in March, in the first major Islamist terror prosecution in UK since the 11 September attacks. The Briton had no known history of extremism but had been radicalised by militants at a mosque in south London in the late 1990s.

Richard Reid

A convert to Islam, Reid was jailed for life in the US for his attempt in December 2001 to blow up an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami with a bomb concealed in his shoe. He was jailed in January 2003 after changing his plea to guilty on all eight charges against him, and declared himself a follower of Osama bin Laden. He told the court: "I admit my actions ... I do not apologise for my actions, and I am still at war with your country."

Kamel Bourgass

An Algerian, Bourgass is serving a series of sentences for murdering DC Stephen Oake and planning to mount poison attacks on the UK with crude home-made devices. Given life for stabbing DC Oake, he was jailed for 17 years in April for trying to make the toxin ricin in a north London flat. He was allegedly recruited by Islamist terrorists. Four more alleged members of the "ricin plot" were cleared by a jury, and charges against four others were dropped.

Abu Qatada

A radical cleric, Abu Qatada is under virtual house arrest in London after his release from Belmarsh Prison in March. Spanish investigators have alleged he is al-Qa'ida's "spiritual leader" in Europe, and he has been linked to the Madrid bombings. A Jordanian-born refugee, he denies the allegations, but a British judge branded him a "truly dangerous individual". Supporters insist that he opposed the 11 September bombings, and the attacks on the UK.

Abu Doha

An Algerian alleged to be al-Qa'ida's "gatekeeper" in Europe. Known as Abu Doha in Belmarsh prison, his real name is Amar Makhlulif, 37. Fighting US attempts to extradite him. Accused of conspiring with Osama bin Laden to blow up Los Angeles airport on Millennium Eve and linked to bomb plots in Strasbourg and Paris. Seen as a key al-Qa'ida recruiter in the UK. Police allege he inspired North African militants to create the "Abu Doha Group". He denies all the charges.