Airliner plot devised by Pakistan masterminds

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The airline bomb plot was devised, practised and overseen by shadowy al-Qa'ida-inspired masterminds in Pakistan.

Evidence throughout the trial was peppered with links to Pakistan, with gang members in frequent communication with unnamed figures there.

Intelligence officials believe the plot's ringleaders may have even been in contact with members of al Qaida's central command.

One senior counter-terrorism source said: "In terms of al Qaida involvement, there is a large part of this plot that has been thought through or invented in Pakistan.

"It is fair to say that a substantial part of the idea, or the genesis of the plan at least, originated in Pakistan."

Surveillance officers looked on as members reported back to Pakistan using calling cards and anonymous email accounts at key stages in their preparations.

The three men convicted today were second generation British Muslims with strong family ties to Pakistan.

It would not have been unusual for ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali to travel there for charity work, to meet his extended family or to look for business opportunities.

Ali may indeed have undertaken some of these things, but he also met extremists who inspired him to lead a terrorist conspiracy.

The extremists must have looked at the intelligent, charismatic and westernised young man as an ideal candidate to assemble an east London terror cell.

Ali claimed he first travelled to Pakistan as a volunteer to help refugees from war-torn Afghanistan.

Counter terrorist police believe it was during an extended trip from May to December 2005 that the bomb plot was born.

It was during this visit that Assad Sarwar and Tanvir Hussain also travelled to Pakistan.

What each of the men did, who they met and where they went during these seven months is unclear.

But it is almost certain some of them spent considerable time in the lawless border country between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Gang members also met the senior al Qaida bombmaker who perfected and passed on the novel design for the home-made liquid bombs.

Sarwar, facing a mass of evidence of his expertise with explosives, claimed he learned his skills from "Jameel", a former Kashmiri fighter.

Pieces of evidence presented during the trial also gave glimpses of how the terrorists operated in Pakistan.

Ali took his diary, later found with a blueprint for the operation, while papers found in Sarwar's bedroom included addresses in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi.