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5 Muslims plead guilty in UK trans-Atlantic airline terror plot

July 14, 2008

5 men plead guilty in trans-Atlantic airline plot

By RAPHAEL G. SATTER, Associated Press Writer
Five men accused of plotting to detonate liquid explosives on board trans-Atlantic passenger jets have pleaded guilty to lesser offenses but maintain they never intended to destroy airliners, a jury was told Monday. Prosecutors say the five, along with three other defendants, wanted to kill hundreds of passengers with bombs concealed in soft drink bottles as their flights crossed the Atlantic Ocean or passed over North American cities. Prosecutors say they were close to carrying out their plan when they were arrested in August 2006 and that they had created "martyrdom" videos to be shown after the suicide-bombings were carried out.

The alleged plan's unraveling quickly led to tough new restrictions on the amount of liquids and gels airline passengers could take in their carry-on luggage restrictions which remain in place. Three of the men Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, Assad Sarwar, 28, and Tanvir Hussain, 27 admitted they planned to set off bombs, just not aboard planes bound from London's Heathrow to North America, the jury was told. They and two other defendants Ibrahim Savant, 27, and Umar Islam, 30 have also admitted to "conspiring to cause a public nuisance" by publishing videos threatening suicide bomb attacks. Ali and Sarwar told the court they were assembling the weapons as part of a publicity stunt to promote an anti-Western documentary which would feature the videos. Ali said he hoped a small, non-fatal, bombing at Britain's Houses of Parliament, at an oil refinery, or at an airport would jolt Londoners and draw attention to his movie. "We did not want to kill or injure anyone," Ali told Woolwich Crown Court in southeast London last month. He added that he wanted to set off something "that would be considered serious and credible, something to generate that mass media attention."

Jurors still need to rule on whether the eight defendants are guilty of plotting to murder hundreds of people by using their bombs aboard planes. Their trial is drawing to a close. If convicted, the men face maximum sentences of life imprisonment. Prosecutors say the men planned to strike at the height of the summer vacation season and that they had gathered vast quantities of hydrogen peroxide for use as explosives. Although they had not yet been able to create a viable bomb, prosecutors maintain the attacks were not far off when the men were arrested. The defendants allegedly identified seven flights from Heathrow airport to Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Toronto and Montreal, although prosecutors say no specific date had been selected. They were rounded up in raids at their homes in and around London. It was not immediately clear when the guilty pleas were made, although the jury was informed of them Monday. Britain's Crown Prosecution Service did not immediately return a call seeking clarification.


Three plead guilty in airliner trial


color-666">Abdulla Ahmed Ali, Assad Sarwar and Tanvir Hussein, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to cause explosions. They deny plotting to blow up passenger jets

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Three men accused of plotting a series of suicide attacks on transatlantic jets pleaded guilty today to conspiring to cause explosions.

Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, Assad Sarwar, 28, and Tanvir Hussain, 27, admitted the offence at Woolwich Crown Court, in southeast London.

The men also admitted conspiring to cause public nuisance by distributing videos threatening suicide bomb attacks in Britain. Two of their co-defendants, Ibrahim Savant, 27, and Umar Islam, 30, also admitted conspiring to cause a public nuisance.

A jury must still decide if the five men, and three others, are guilty of conspiring to murder thousands in a wave of mid-air terrorist explosions using homemade liquid bombs.

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All eight men deny two charges of conspiracy to murder between January 1 and August 11 2006. One of the charges specifies that the attacks would involve the detonation of improvised bombs on passenger aircraft.

Prosecutors claim the eight men plotted to blow up passenger jets flying from Heathrow to major cities in North America.

They planned to use powerful hydrogen peroxide liquid bombs disguised as soft drinks to bypass airport security, jurors were told. The devices would be assembled by injecting the chemicals into plastic soft drinks bottles and detonated using a battery from a camera flash, it was claimed.

They were being assembled at a bomb factory flat bought by the gang for cash in Forest Road, Walthamstow, northeast London, the court heard.

The same flat was used by six members of the gang to record martyrdom videos in which they ranted hatred against the West and non-Muslims, jurors were told.

Peter Wright QC, prosecuting, said the gang were "not long off" executing their plan when counter terrorist police swooped in August 2006.

He said Ali, the alleged ringleader of the plot, was caught with a blueprint for the operation recorded in a pocket diary and on a computer memory stick.

Stashes of hydrogen peroxide and other bomb-making equipment were found hidden at Sarwar's home and in woodland nearby, the court heard.

In their defence, Ali and Sarwar said they planned to record a documentary highlighting injustices against Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. A small explosion at the Houses of Parliament in which no-one would be hurt would act as a publicity stunt to draw attention to the programme.

The two men also considered other targets including gas terminals, oil refineries and airports. Ali and the five other men who recorded videos said that they were acting the role of violent hate-filled extremists.

Hussain admitted that he agreed to appear in an al-Qaeda-style militant video, but said he was shocked when he learned of the publicity bomb plot.

The public nuisance charge stated the offence would be by "the publication or distribution of video recordings threatening the murder of persons by means of suicide operations, such threats being designed to influence the Government and intimidate the public".

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