Three accused of plotting to bomb jets admit conspiracy

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Three men accused of plotting to kill thousands of people in suicide attacks on transatlantic jets have admitted conspiring to cause explosions.

Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, from Walthamstow, east London; Assad Sarwar, 28, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire and Tanvir Hussain, 27, from Leyton, east London, are among eight men who have all denied two charges of conspiracy to murder between 1 January and 11 August 2006. They pleaded guilty yesterday to plotting to cause explosions and – along with two other defendants, Ibrahim Savant, 27, from Stoke Newington, north London, and Umar Islam, 30, from Plaistow, east London – conspiring to cause public nuisance by distributing videos threatening suicide bomb attacks in Britain.

But a jury at Woolwich Crown Court, in south-east London, must decide if all eight plotted to kill airline passengers using home-made liquid bombs in an attack which would "shock the world".

The prosecution claims the gang planned to "commit carnage for the sake of Islam", targeting planes flying from Heathrow to major cities in North America, using powerful hydrogen peroxide liquid bombs disguised as soft drinks to bypass airport security.

In a flat in Walthamstow, they had established a bomb factory and six of them had recorded martyrdom videos in which they ranted against the West and non-Muslims, the jury was told. The group – which also includes Mohammed Gulzar, 26, of Barking, east London, Arafat Waheed Khan, 27, and Waheed Zaman, 24, both from Walthamstow – were close to executing their plan in August 2006 when they were arrested, said Peter Wright QC, for the prosecution.

Mr Wright said it was their chance to achieve "immortality and notoriety in equal measure", adding: "It was intended to be an act of terrorism to not only alter aviation history but also to strike a blow on behalf of radicalised Islamists the world over." Mr Sarwar and Mr Gulzar, who did not record videos, were to strike a blow and then "quietly slip away".

Mr Ali and Mr Sarwar were meeting in Walthamstow to discuss final preparations when the police arrived, it was alleged. They were about to begin making HMTD, a highly volatile chemical used to detonate the hydrogen peroxide explosive devices and had enough materials to make 20 bombs. Both were following instructions from overseas, said Mr Wright. "They were also receiving and following instructions rather more directly from someone who was here in the UK, whose presence was designed to assist insofar as this plot was concerned," he added. "That was the superintendent – superintendent Gulzar."

But counter-terrorist police were monitoring their movements and communications with surveillance teams and a hidden bug at their base, said Mr Wright.

In their defence, Mr Ali and Mr Sarwar said they planned to record a documentary highlighting injustices against Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. A small explosion at the Houses of Parliament in which no one would be hurt would act as a publicity stunt. Those who recorded videos said they were acting the roles of violent hate-filled extremists and the footage would be woven into the film.

Mr Wright said that the defendants' explanations were "inherently improbable", "hollow" and "bogus".

Final speeches by representatives of the defendants will begin today and the jury is expected to retire next week.