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Three men convicted of airline bomb plot

Three Islamic extremists are facing lengthy prison sentences tonight after being found guilty of conspiring to kill hundreds of people in a terrorist bombing campaign.

They were members of an east London al Qaida-inspired terror cell that planned to detonate home-made bombs in attacks on British targets including Heathrow Airport, a jury at Woolwich Crown Court found.

But following a five-month trial the jurors failed to reach verdicts on prosecution claims that they were plotting an unprecedented wave of suicide bombings on transatlantic airliners.

The three - Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, Assad Sarwar, 28, and Tanvir Hussain, 27 - had already admitted planning a series of small-scale headline-grabbing bomb attacks.

But, by a majority of 10 to two, the jurors rejected their claims that they did not plan to kill or hurt anyone in the blasts.

The eight men and four women on the jury deliberated for 56 hours and nine minutes.

But they could not agree verdicts on whether another four Muslim men - Ibrahim Savant, 27, Arafat Waheed Khan, 27, Waheed Zaman, 24, and Umar Islam, 30 - were also involved in the conspiracy to murder.

All seven defendants earlier admitted conspiring to cause a public nuisance by distributing al Qaida-style videos threatening suicide attacks in Britain.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has until the end of this month to decide whether the men should face retrials on the counts on which the jurors could not reach verdicts.

An eighth man, Mohammed Gulzar, 27, was cleared on all charges.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith, adjourned the case for sentencing at a later date.

He paid tribute to the jurors' efforts throughout the lengthy trial, describing them as a "unique bunch of 12 people", and released them from future jury service.

Ali - described by prosecutors as the plot's mastermind - was dressed casually in a beige zip-up fleece and looked calm as the foreman returned the verdicts.

The jury found that Ali, Sarwar and Hussain intended to murder people using an ingenious form of hydrogen peroxide liquid bomb disguised as a soft drink.

Prosecutors said his gang considered national infrastructure targets including gas terminals and oil refineries.

Evidence revealed that Canary Wharf, the Bacton gas terminal pipeline, various airports, the electricity grid and internet providers were studied.

Documents also referred to Coryton Oil Refinery, in south Essex, and Fawley Oil Refinery, in Hampshire, and Kingsbury Oil Refinery in Warwickshire.

Police said the plot was drawn up in Pakistan with detailed instructions passed to Ali during frequent trips to its lawless border with Afghanistan.

They believe a mystery al Qaida bombmaker is responsible for the ingenious liquid bomb design concealed within 500ml Oasis or Lucozade bottles.

Surveillance teams watched Ali on his return to Britain as he assembled his terror cell, gathered materials and identified targets.

Undercover officers looked on as the unemployed former shop worker used cash to purchase a £138,000 second-floor flat in Forest Road, Walthamstow.

They planted a secret bug that revealed it was converted into a bomb factory where Ali met the others to construct the bombs.

The flat was also used as a location for Ali and his cell to record suicide videos threatening further attacks against the West.

In his video Ali warned the British public to expect "floods of martyr operations" that would leave body parts scattered in the streets.

Ali was watched as he used public phone boxes, mobile phones and anonymous email accounts to keep in touch with mystery terrorist godfathers in Pakistan.

On his arrest, he was found carrying an elaborate and damning blueprint for the plot scrawled in a battered pocket diary.

Airport security arrangements and details of flights, including the seven highlighted services, were discovered on a computer memory stick in another pocket.

But the jurors could not agree on verdicts on the prosecution's evidence that Ali intended to target passenger jets flying from London to major North American cities with suicide attacks. Tonight, the CPS said "the prosecution is considering a request for a retrial" with regard the accusations that jets were a target.

In his defence, Ali said he wanted to create an internet documentary protesting against British foreign policy in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

He claimed the apparent suicide video, and those created by five of his co-defendants, were spoofs created to make the documentary more provocative.

Ali said the blasts would create a storm of media attention that would propel the video into the spotlight.

Ali said he, Sarwar and Hussain plotted to detonate a small device at Heathrow's terminal three because it is used by several American airlines.

He said the group, who rejected an attack on the House of Commons because of tight security, planned to leave devices on timers to create a disturbance.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith welcomed the conclusion of the trial.

She said: "I am indebted to the Police and Security Services who, by successfully disrupting this group, have saved countless lives.

"I would also thank the Crown Prosecution Service, which has worked tirelessly to ensure that these individuals have been brought to justice.

"I am sure they will now consider what to do where no verdict was reached."

The CPS said in a statement: "This is still the subject of ongoing proceedings and the prosecution is considering a request for a retrial in respect of the plot to blow up airliners against all seven men upon which the jury could not agree."

The defendants addresses were: Ali, Prospect Hill, Walthamstow, east London; Sarwar, Walton Drive, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire; Hussain, Nottingham Road, Leyton, east London; Gulzar, Priory Road, Barking, east London; Savant, Denver Road, Stoke Newington, north London; Khan, Farnan Avenue, Walthamstow; Zaman, Queen's Road, Walthamstow; and Islam, aka Brian Young, Bushey Road, Plaistow, east London.