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.

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child