Nightclub attack alert issued two weeks ago - bomb attempt on London clubs similiar to those planned by 5 jailed terrorists
June 30, 2007
June 30, 2007
Nightclub bomb alert issued two weeks agoStewart Tendler, Michael Horsnell and Adam Fresco
Nightclubs across Britain were warned they could be terrorist targets just days before yesterday's attempted double car-bomb attack in London, The Times has learnt.
Two cars packed with petrol, nails and "patio gas" canisters were left primed to wreak destruction among London clubbers making their way home after a Thursday night out. Only the vigilance and courage of ambulancemen and police officers prevented massive loss of life.
One car, a pale green Mercedes, had been left outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub in Haymarket. A second, a blue Mercedes, was left a few hundred yards away in Cockspur Street, a busy thoroughfare close to Trafalgar Square. This vehicle was towed away at 3:30am on Friday to an car pound on Park Lane by unsuspecting parking officials.
Had either device gone off it would have generated a huge fireball and a shockwave spreading over 400 yards in all directions. If, as suspected, one had been primed to detonate before the other, people fleeing the first blast could have been caught by the second.
Yesterday a hunt began for the drivers of the two vehicles, and footage from dozens of CCTV cameras in the area between Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square was being examined. The discovery of the bombs confirmed the fears of counterterrorism chiefs, that al-Qaeda would bring Iraq-style tactics to Britain. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article2007873.ece
The drama came as it emerged that a 53-page document alerting businesses to the threat posed by VBIEDs vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices had been issued to police two weeks ago. It had been passed on to the Tiger Tiger club only a few days before yesterday's events.
The incident also appeared to be foreshadowed by a posting on an internet forum used by terrorists, saying: "Today I say: Rejoice, by Allah. London will be bombed."
Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, gave warning recently that car and lorry bombs were "the greatest danger" facing Britain.
From The Times May 1, 2007
British terror cell plotted to kill thousands of shoppers in Bluewater with a devastating fertiliser bombNicola Woolcock
Five men who hoped to kill thousands of people with a vast fertiliser bomb were described by a judge yesterday as ruthless and devious misfits who had betrayed their country of birth.
Omar Khyam, the ringleader of the British terrorist cell, and his accomplices planned to use the 1,300lb (590kg) bomb on a target such as Bluewater shopping centre in Kent or the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London.
Jailing them all for life yesterday, Mr Justice Astill said that they were "cruel and ruthless misfits who should be removed from society for its own protection".
The judge described Khyam, 25, as "ruthless, devious, artful and dangerous". He gave warning that he and the others may never be released from prison. Khyam had spoken with "enthusiasm and pleasure of the slaughter of nonbelievers", the judge said. "You took full advantage of the benefits free society had to offer. You exploited the freedoms you sought to destroy with such evil purpose. You betrayed the country that's given you every advantage in life."
Khyam will serve at least 20 years before being considered for parole, as will Waheed Mahmood, 35, and Anthony Garcia, 25, Khyam's "personal assistant and close confidant".
Jawad Akbar, 23, and Sala-huddin Amin, 32, will each serve at least 17½ years. All five were convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions. Both Khyam and Garcia were convicted of possessing fertiliser for the purposes of terrorism, for which they were given eight-year concurrent jail terms.
The two youngest defendants Khyam's brother, Shu-jah Mahmood, 20, and Nabeel Hussain, 22 were each cleared of conspiracy and possession charges.
The judge said of the convicted men: "It may be that you consider yourselves heroes of the cause that you espouse. But you are considered by the vast majority of the population of whatever religious faith as nothing but cruel and ruthless misfits and now you must pay the price exacted by that society." He said that the "spiral of contamination" began with "the teachers and preachers of hatred and revenge who so often lurk in the shadows".
Khyam, Waheed Mahmood, Garcia and Amin refused to enter court to be sentenced. Only Akbar, who had been found guilty by a 10-2 majority, sat in the dock to hear the comments of the judge.
The conspiracy that led to a jury deliberating for 27 days, the longest in British criminal trial history, had started in November 2003, with the purchase of the ammonium nitrate fertiliser that was central to the plot. The amount would have been capable of bringing down a large building.
When Garcia turned up at Bodle Brothers, the agricultural merchants, his request baffled John Stone, a salesman. Flashily dressed, he arrived in a customised Audi, with rap music blaring, and asked for the fertiliser for his allotment. It was winter, thought Mr Stone, and the order was enough to cover five football pitches. "What do you want all that for?" he asked. "Are you planning a bomb attack?" Unwittingly, he had hit upon the truth.
Months earlier, Garcia had been among a group that learnt about weapons and explosives in Pakistan. Two accomplices learnt how to prepare ricin. Garcia had taught the others how to dismantle and reassemble weapons. Under the leadership of Khyam they wanted to put their training into practice.
By now their conversations were being recorded by MI5. Operation Crevice involved every officer in the south of England and uncovered dozens of suspects across three continents. Members of the public had played their part when the fertiliser was taken to Access Storage, near Heathrow. Khyam refused to answer questions about why he was paying £207 a month to store £90 worth of fertiliser. Staff contacted police in February 2004, on the same day that Khyam collected Momin Khawaja, a Canadian expert in detonators, from Heathrow.
The pair were heard talking about remote-controlled devices and it was the involvement of Mr Khawaja that jolted MI5 into realising just how serious the scheme was becoming. The men went to a key meeting the next day in Craw-ley, which officers believe was also attended by Mohammad Sidique Khan, the ringleader of the July 7 bombers.
The fertiliser was switched by police for cat litter and five weeks passed before the gang were arrested. During this time they seemed "surveillance sensitive" executing U-turns on the way to meetings, using multiple names and codewords, disposing of laptop computers and changing mobile phones.
Detectives acted when the conversation convinced them that the plot was slipping beyond their control. One suspect was recorded asking whether something was "ready to go".
On March 30, 2004, officers from five forces arrested the seven defendants, who were charged with conspiring to cause an explosion likely to endanger life. Mr Khawaja was arrested in Canada and his trial begins imminently. Detectives found aluminium powder in a biscuit tin behind the shed at Khyam's family home.
A week after their arrests, Mohammed Babar, an American al-Qaeda operative who trained with Khyam in Pakistan, was arrested in New York. He "crumbled", pleaded guilty to terrorist offences and agreed to give evidence in return for immunity from prosecution for the fertiliser plot.
The intelligence service compiled a huge list of friends, relatives and contacts, many with multiple identities. Accomplices included "AD", who was sectioned under the Mental Health Act but escaped from hospital. He was asked to carry out a suicide attack on the Tube but refused.
Two men from Luton one who can be identified only as Q and the other who uses the name Abu Munthir played pivotal roles in recruiting the Khyam cell. Both reported to al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan, including Abdul Hadi, who is being held at Guantanamo Bay.
Some of the defendants and associates worked at Gatwick and discussed its levels of security, leading surveillance officers to fear that the airport could be attacked.
Terror cell plotted to bomb Ministry of Sound, court is told
By Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent
Published: 26 May 2006
London's biggest nightclub, the Ministry of Sound, was discussed as a possible bombing target by British terrorists, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.
One of the members of an alleged terror cell with al-Qa'ida links said they would not be blamed for killing innocent people because the clubbers were "slags dancing around", the jury was told.
In secret tape recordings made by MI5, the Security Service, another alleged member of the group talks about blowing up a gas plant. Omar Khyam, 24, of Crawley, West Sussex, is heard apparently discussing targeting utility companies with the help of recruits with inside knowledge. But another of the alleged plotters, Jawad Akbar, 22, also of Crawley, says the central London club is a softer target for a terror attack.
The recording was made at Mr Akbar's home in Uxbridge, west London, on 22 February 2004, the jury was told. In tapes played to the court, Mr Akbar says: "What about easy stuff where you don't need no experience and nothing and you could get a job, yeah, like for example the biggest nightclub in central London where no one can even turn round and say, 'Oh they were innocent' those slags dancing around?
"If you went for the social structure where every Tom, Dick and Harry goes on a Saturday night, yeah, that would be crazy."
Mr Khyam replies: "If you get a job in a bar, yeah, or a club, say the Ministry of Sound, what are you planning to do there then?", the court heard.
Mr Akbar: "Blow the whole thing up." Mr Khyam: "That's what I'm saying."
Mr Akbar: "I think the club thing you could do, but the gas would be much harder. There's people who even get in with their searching stuff but it's only bouncers that search you."
Mr Khyam: "The explosion in the clubs, yeah, that's fine bro, that's not a problem. The training for that is available. To get them into the Ministry of Sound really isn't difficult."
Mr Akbar asks Mr Khyam if he thinks they are being bugged by the police and MI5, to which he replies he does not think so.
The Ministry of Sound was founded 15 years ago by Jamie Palumbo, son of the developer Lord Palumbo, and was Britain's first super-club. It can hold up to 1,800 people. Gary Smart, the Ministry of Sound's general manager, said in a statement read to court that 1.5 million people had visited it since it opened. He said: "If the Ministry of Sound was to be subjected to terrorist attack, then it's clear the consequences could be devastating with such a large number of people in such a confined space. The impact could result in loss of life, injury or structural damage."
Earlier, the jury heard that the alleged terrorist group had considered attacking the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent.
Mr Khyam, 24, his brother Shujah Mahmood, 19, Waheed Mahmood, 34, and Akbar, 22, all from Crawley, West Sussex, Salahuddin Amin, 31, from Luton, Bedfordshire, Anthony Garcia, 23, of Ilford, east London, and Nabeel Hussain, 21, of Horley, Surrey, deny conspiring to cause explosions likely to endanger life between January 2003 and March 2004. Mr Khyam, Mr Garcia and Mr Hussain also deny possessing 600kg (1,300lb) of ammonium nitrate fertiliser for terrorism.
The men were arrested in March 2004 after fertiliser was found in a depot in west London. The trial continues.
April 30,2007Omar Khyam, 25 Jawad Akbar, 23 Salahuddin Amin, 32 Waheed Mahmood, 35 Anthony Garcia, 24 Full special report Five get life over UK bomb plot
Jurors in the year-long Old Bailey trial heard of plans to target a shopping centre, nightclub and the gas network with a giant fertiliser bomb.
The judge, Sir Michael Astill, said the men, all British citizens, had "betrayed their country".
It has also been revealed some of the plotters met two of the 7 July London suicide bombers.
Mohammad Sidique Khan was spotted on four occasions in 2004 with at least one of the fertiliser bomb conspirators. At one point MI5 officers followed Khan back to his home in Leeds but no further action was taken.
In the wake of the convictions both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have both called for an independent inquiry into the 7 July link.
The call for an inquiry was echoed by Graham Foulkes, whose son David died in the 7 July attacks. He said an inquiry was needed so "lessons could be learned".
Later, in the House of Commons, the Home Secretary, John Reid, ruled out an inquiry, saying it would divert the efforts of those in the security services who were so busy countering the terrorist threat.
But he said a committee of MPs would analyse the lessons learned from the fertiliser bomb plot trial.
The new director general of MI5, Jonathan Evans, issued a statement in which he denied being "complacent" and added: "The attack on 7 July in London was a terrible event. The sense of disappointment, felt across the service, at not being able to prevent the attack (despite our efforts to prevent all such atrocities) will always be with us."
He added: "The Security Service will never have the capacity to investigate everyone who appears on the periphery of every operation."
Britain's top anti-terrorist policeman, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, said: "This was not a group of youthful idealists. They were trained, dedicated, ruthless terrorists who were obviously planning to carry out an attack against the British public."
Police smashed the plot in 2004 after MI5 had watched an Islamist extremist network with links across the world.
The link with 7 July was deliberately kept from the Old Bailey jury for fear of prejudicing their deliberations on the fertiliser bomb plot. The trial was one of the biggest and most expensive in British criminal history.
The fertiliser bomb plot investigation linked back to senior al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including one who was detained by US forces in Iraq at the weekend.
Omar Khyam, 25, from Crawley, West Sussex, was found guilty of conspiring to cause explosions likely to endanger life between 1 January 2003 and 31 March 2004.
Also convicted were Waheed Mahmood, 34, and Jawad Akbar, 23, also of Crawley; Salahuddin Amin, 31, from Luton, Bedfordshire; Anthony Garcia, 24, of Barkingside, east London.
The judge told them: "You have betrayed this country that has given you every opportunity."
He also warned them: "All of you may never be released. It's not a foregone conclusion."
Two other men, Nabeel Hussain and Shujah Mahmood, were found not guilty.
The Old Bailey heard the plotters had come together over a number of years.
The men had started out sympathetic to Muslim causes around the world - but the key plotters decided that violence was the answer as they came together for secret military training camps in Pakistan.
Back in Britain, they discussed various schemes, including targeting the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent on a busy Saturday or the Ministry of Sound nightclub in central London.
They also talked of attacking the gas or electricity network and Prime Minister's Questions in Parliament.
The group had bought 600kg of ammonium nitrate from an agricultural merchants and kept it at a storage unit in Hanwell, west London.
This fertiliser was to be the key component in the massive bomb - similar to those used in other terrorism attacks around the world.
But unbeknown to the men, some of them were already on MI5's radar while, at the same time, staff at the storage unit tipped off police.
They replaced the ammonium nitrate with a harmless substance and kept the group under surveillance before swooping in a series of raids.
The Old Bailey heard the defendants had at least two fellow conspirators.
One of them, an American called Mohammed Junaid Babar, admitted his role in the plot after being arrested by the FBI and became a vital prosecution witness.
The other was Mohammed Momin Khawaja, awaiting trial in Canada.
The jury deliberated for 27 days, a record in British criminal history.
A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said the deal allowing Babar to testify was unprecedented in British courts.
Outside court a solicitor read out a statement on behalf of Nabeel Hussain. He said: " I have always maintained my innocence of the allegations against me. I have never been an extremist or believed in extremism... I am so glad this ordeal is over."
How are the fertiliser bomb plotters linked to other extremists in the UK and abroad? Find out the full story on Newsnight at 2230 BST on Monday.
MIM: The attempted car bomb attacks on London nightclubs and the airport took place less then 2 months after the sentencing of five car bomb terror plotters.
Sun 1 Jul 2007
Passengers and airport staff flee from Glasgow Airport.
'His whole body seemed to be on fire I knocked him down'JEREMY WATSON AND MURDO MACLEOD
IT WAS a routine afternoon at Glasgow Airport with hundreds of families and other passengers preparing to fly off to the sun at the start of the summer holidays. Others were returning to Scotland from abroad, bemoaning the torrential rain that greeted their arrival.
But at 3.15pm yesterday, shockwaves spread through the main terminal as a Cherokee Jeep crashed in through the main doors and burst into flames.
Dramatic mobile phone footage captured the moment of horror as a fireball erupted onto the pavement outside the building.
To many of the hundreds of passengers queuing for check-in, it appeared that the airport was under terrorist attack.
There were astonishing stories of members of the public and taxi marshals grappling the driver, whose clothes were on fire, to the ground. There were reports of the two men in the vehicle punching police officers, throwing petrol bombs around and spilling more petrol around the car and setting light to it.
Then, as police swooped in force, passengers fled for the exits as black smoke began to pour from the vehicle. Moments later it exploded, but by that time most of the immediate area had been cleared.
But as the airport was shut down with the suspension of all flights, passengers already on planes waiting for take-off were left stranded.
According to some witnesses, the incident started when a 4x4 vehicle raced down a road used exclusively by taxis and then veered off into the Terminal 1 building.
Lynsey McBean, 26, from Erskine, Renfrewshire, was due to fly out to Canada and witnessed the incident from yards away.
She said: "We got there about 3pm, just as it happened. My boyfriend was unloading golf clubs and we saw a green Cherokee drive straight into the front door of the airport, but it got jammed.
"They were obviously trying to get it further inside the airport, as the wheels were spinning and smoke was coming from them.
"One of the men, I think it was the driver, brought out a plastic petrol canister and poured it under the car. He then set light to it. At that point a policeman came over. The passenger got out of the car and punched him. At that point I began to run away.
"But when I looked back, several people had run over to try and stop the men, who were Asian.
"I could see that one of the men was on fire."
Stephen Clarkson, who rushed forward to tackle the men, said: "I saw a Jeep crashed into the glass doors at the main terminal and a man, an Asian man in flames, jumped out of the car. The Jeep was on fire as well.
"The Asian man, his clothes were burning and he came out and was shouting. His whole body seemed to be on fire. I don't know what he was saying, it sounded like gibberish to me.
"I fought with him and knocked him down, he was pretty strong and then four policemen came and wrestled him to the ground.
"They then took him away in handcuffs. There was another guy with him who went into the terminal and then went out again. The police took him away with them and they took them both into custody.
"Then the police told everyone to move back and go away from the Jeep, and then it exploded. A lot of people could have been hurt in the explosion if they had been closer to the car. But by the time it went off, everyone had been moved away."
Witness Helen Hughes said that she was sure the car travelled down the airport road that is normally restricted to taxis.
Passenger James Edgar said the driver was trying to get through the terminal's main doors.
"He was trying to get through the main door frame, but the bollards have stopped him from going through," said Edgar.
"If he'd got through, he could have killed hundreds."
Taxi driver Ian Crosby said that, in his opinion, there was no doubt that this was a terrorist attack on the airport.
"The car went inside the terminal and had to accelerate to get where it was," he said. "I think it was a deliberate terrorist attack.
"These people knew what they were doing. They were intent on taking lives and causing damage. That's why they were attacked by a member of the public who risked his own life to tackle them.
"What astonished me is that after these two attacks in London, it looks like the police had no inkling that this sort of thing might happen. The time has come to arm policemen at airports."
Scott Leeson was waiting to pick up a colleague when he witnessed the Jeep smashing into the airport building.
He said: "The car came speeding past at about 30mph. It was approaching the building quickly.
"Then the driver swerved the car around so he could ram straight into the door. He must have been trying to smash straight through.
"Luckily he did not get the car too far in. He just managed to get the nose of the Jeep inside.
"I spoke to an airport official who seemed to think it was not an accident. He was very angry. He said the men in the car got out and started throwing petrol about - that must be how it caught fire. Luckily my colleague and his family were delayed, or they could have been coming out of that door at exactly that time."
Crosby said prior to the vehicle crashing into the terminal he saw a small explosion which looked like it was coming from the back of the vehicle.
Gillian Skimming said she was also under the clear impression that the airport was under attack.
"The taxi marshal at the airport told me he had helped wrestle one of the men to the ground. People definitely thought they were under attack," she said. "No one thought it was an accident."
Another eyewitness, Margaret Hughes, said people were screaming and running towards the exit shortly after the explosion. "As soon as I left the building there was black smoke gushing out where the car had obviously been driven into the airport," she said.
She added that the man who had been on fire appeared very calm as he was led away by police.
"He seemed fairly composed, you could say almost in a state of shock," she said.
"He was quite a large man... and very heavyset. Very dark hair and dark colouring."
As ambulances and fire services rushed to the scene, hundreds of frightened passengers huddled together in the rain after the evacuation of the terminal.
Other passengers and airport visitors tried to leave the area, but only succeeded in clogging perimeter roads.
A police cordon was set up 200 yards around the building, but it was later moved back, with all roads around Scotland's busiest airport shut down.
Passengers already on their flights had no choice but to wait in their aircraft.
BBC cameraman Monty Johnston was sitting in a plane waiting for takeoff when the car struck the building.
He said: "We could see black smoke coming from the terminal. Later, an announcement was made that we would not be taking off and that the airport would be closed until 9pm at the earliest."
Passengers face delays for days as flights suspended
THE closure of Scotland's busiest airport is set to cause days of misery for travellers.
Thousands of travellers were left stranded in the Glasgow rain as all flights to and from the airport were suspended.
Around 35,000 passengers were expected to be affected by the closure, which came on the first day of the school holidays, one of the busiest weekends of the year.
Flights were diverted to other airports, such as Edinburgh and Prestwick, and the resulting changes will have a dramatic knock-on effect on timetables.
David Learmount, of Flight International, said: "Air travel, like all systems of transport, are subject to domino effects. They end up in the wrong places and that leads to subsequent delays and problems, and it can take some days to get things back to normal.
"My advice to travellers would be to check your details again and again. Don't just check the day before, check two hours before you would normally depart for the airport, and be prepared for delays.
"I would point out that I am going to Brussels next week and despite having worked with the aviation industry for many years, I am taking the train."
He added: "It's important to point out that this is less about aviation than the fact that terrorists want to target areas where they will find lots of people.
"They attack airports because there are lots of people there; they could just as well be attacking a nightclub or a train station."
The incident is having a knock-on effect at Edinburgh, Prestwick and Newcastle airports, which are all popular for Scottish holiday flights.
Travel by car was being restricted at Edinburgh Airport last night, and many flights in and out of Newcastle were subject to cancellation.
The authorities were advising that travellers should not try to get to Edinburgh Airport by car, and should instead travel by taxi or bus.
Further south, John Lennon Airport in Liverpool was closed and police shut set-down roads in front of the terminal building at Birmingham International Airport until further notice as a precautionary measure.
Sussex Police said it was stepping up patrols at Gatwick Airport, which is one of Britain's busiest airports.
If your flight is delayed or cancelled due to a terror alert then airlines will offer an alternative or later booking, but will normally not pay for an alternative such as the train.
However, if you want to cancel your holiday because you simply do not want to go abroad any more, or because the delays mean that your holiday may no longer be worthwhile, you are unlikely to be covered under your travel insurance.
Some travel insurance policies have exclusions which rule out cover for acts of terror. However, the question of delays and cancellations which are caused by the knock-on effect of problems elsewhere would probably be covered, although a traveller would be more likely to be offered an alternative flight than given their cash back.
Flights and holidays bought using credit cards are covered by an extra insurance policy, and they may offer some cover depending on the small print of the policy.
Those considering taking the train as an alternative to the plane should bear in mind that some Anglo-Scottish services are affected by the aftermath of last week's flooding in England.
GNER services between London King's Cross and Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central are now able to operate on their normal routes. However, they are subject to delays of up to 40 minutes.
More than 40 airlines fly from Glasgow to around 90 destinations, including many charter holiday flights.
Travel firms Thomas Cook, Thomson and First Choice all operate out of the airport.