Court told of plot to bomb transatlantic airliners

Eight British Muslims came within days of blowing up at least seven transatlantic airliners using liquid bombs disguised as soft drinks in a suicide plot which would have led to "death on an almost unprecedented scale", a court was told yesterday.

The men, described by prosecutors as "cold-eyed fanatics", were allegedly in the final phase of preparing a terrorist operation simultaneously to detonate devices using hydrogen peroxide similar to those used by the London bombers in July 2005. A covert police operation led to their arrest in August 2006.

The jury at Woolwich Crown Court heard that the alleged ringleaders of the conspiracy had selected as probable targets seven flights leaving within a period of two hours and 35 minutes from Heathrow airport's Terminal 3 to six cities in America and Canada including San Francisco and Montreal. But the court heard the plotters may have had ambitions to target as many as 18 jets leaving other terminals with suicide bombers on board, potentially leading to the highest terrorist death toll since the September 11 attacks in America.

The arrest of the group, who are accused of preparing to use bombs disguised in 500ml bottles of Oasis and Lucozade, led to a dramatic tightening of security and chaos at airports 18 months ago when passengers were banned from carrying liquids on to aircraft. All eight men deny charges of conspiracy to murder and endangering an aircraft by causing an explosion.

Peter Wright QC, for the prosecution, said the alleged conspirators, aged between 23 and 29, were united by a common interest that "involved inflicting heavy casualties on an unwitting civilian population all in the name of Islam".

It is claimed that each of the bombers would have carried the bombs and their detonators on board in hand luggage disguised as innocuous items such as AA-sized batteries, disposable containers and sealed drinks which had been injected with the liquid explosive using a syringe.

The court heard that the plot involved Boeing 777, 767 or 763 aircraft operated by three airlines – Air Canada, United Airlines and American Airlines. The jets, which each have a capacity of between 241 and 285 people, would have been in the air together for a period of at least six hours, making them vulnerable to a simultaneous suicide attack, the jury was told. Although no date had been selected, it is claimed the ringleaders had shown an interest in flights between 2 August and the end of October 2006.

Mr Wright said: "They are men with the cold-eyed certainty of fanatics, prepared to board an aircraft with the ingredients to construct and detonate a device to bring about the loss not only of their own lives but all those around them."

The alleged conspiracy began to unravel on 9 August when two of the defendants – Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, from Walthamstow, east London, and Assad Sarwar, 27, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire – met in a car park and were arrested by counter-terrorist officers. It is claimed that the two men, along with another defendant – Mohammed Gulzar, 26, from Barking – were the ringleaders and used a house in Walthamstow as the logistical centre for the conspiracy.

A computer memory stick found in the pocket of Mr Ali's jacket contained information which he insisted was a plan for a holiday in America.

Prosecutors say the data on the stick – flight schedules, airport security information and details of what could be carried as hand luggage – represented key groundwork for how and when to carry out the attacks.

Mr Wright said: "It seems that those interested in the fruits of this research appeared merely interested in a one-way flight. They did not appear to show any similar interest in flying back to the UK."

The seven flights, which had been highlighted on the memory stick data, would all have taken off from Terminal 3 between 2.15pm and 4.30pm destined for San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Washington DC and New York City, with two flights going to Chicago.

A diary found in Mr Ali's jacket also contained a "blueprint" for the attacks with shopping lists for bomb ingredients, information on how to assemble the explosives and instructions such as "Select date, five days before jet, all link up".

The other defendants, all from east London, are Tanvir Hussain, 27, of Leyton; Ibrahim Savant, 27, of Stoke Newington; Arafat Waheed Khan, 26, and Waheed Zaman, both of Walthamstow; and Umar Islam, 29, from Plaistow. The trial continues.

The make-up of a 'soft-drinks' bomb

*Prosecutors allege that the main charge of the devices consisted of hydrogen peroxide, a commonly available chemical used by hair dressers, mixed with a powdered base for soft drinks called Tang.

*If hydrogen peroxide is produced at sufficient concentration and then mixed with another 'energetic source', it has explosive properties.

*The explosive was to have been injected into the bottom of unopened Lucozade or Oasis bottles. The hole would then be sealed with glue.

*The main charge was to have been detonated with the chemical HMTD, which can also be made from commerciallyavailable substances, including solid fuel camping stoves.

*The HMTD was to be concealed in hollowed-out AA 1.5 volt batteries along with a wire fuse taken from a light bulb.

*An ignition device such as a portable camera would have been used to set off the explosion, the court heard.

Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'


Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Life and Style

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Life and Style

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

*****English/Maths Teacher*****

£110 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Preston: English/Maths Teacher require...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Nursery Assistant and Nursery nurse...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

KS1 & KS2 Primary Teacher Jobs in Blackpool

Negotiable: Randstad Education Preston: KS1 & KS2 Primary Teacher Jobs in ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album