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03 April 2008

Muslim terror suspects 'planned to kill thousands by bombing seven transatlantic airliners in one go'

71de7cdbd2bdb09942be871ffa82506d.jpgA British terror gang plotted to use liquid explosives to blow up transatlantic passenger jets in mid-flight, a court heard today.

Eight men planned to smuggle bombs disguised as soft drinks on to flights from Heathrow to the United States and Canada and detonate them on board, Woolwich crown court was told.

It would have caused a civilian death toll on an "almost unprecedented scale" and a "global impact".

The gang allegedly targeted seven flights operated by Air Canada, United Airlines and American Airlines.

They were arrested in August 2006 after a surveillance operation — as they were "almost ready" to strike.

Peter Wright QC, prosecuting, said they had planned, "all in the name of Islam", to carry out a "series of coordinated and deadly explosions" and were "indifferent to the carnage" that would have been caused.

The eight — seven from London — were flanked by security guards at the start of what has been described as the world's biggest terror trial. All deny conspiracy to murder and conspiring to commit an act of violence likely to endanger the safety of an aircraft

8639da6ae352bd82129bf70ef61684bb.jpgThey are: Abdulla Ahmed Ali, Assad Sarwar, Tanvir Hussain, and Ibrahim Savant — all aged 27; Mohammed Gulzar and Arafat Waheed Khan, 26; Waheed Zaman, 23, and Umar Islam, also known as Brian Young, 29.

Mr Wright named the ringleaders as Ali, Sarwar and Gulzar and said Ali was one of those prepared to blow themselves up on a jet.

However, during conversations monitored by police the conspirators talked about as many as 18 suicide bombers at different airport terminals.

"At the very least" seven planes would have been targeted, Mr Wright said.

The jury heard that the gang planned to smuggle components of the homemade bombs on to the flights as "innocuous hand luggage".

The court heard the bombers intended to use hydrogen peroxide and mix it with a product called Tang, used in soft drinks, to turn it into an explosive.

They intended to carry it on board disguised as 500ml bottles of Oasis or Lucozade by using food dye to recreate the drinks' distinctive colour.

The detonator would have been disguised as AA 1.5 batteries. The contents of the batteries would have been removed and an electric element such as a lightbulb or wiring would have been inserted.

A disposable camera would have provided a power source.

"These items would have the capability of being detonated with devastating consequences," said Mr Wright.

An address book found in Ali's pocket had a "to-do list with items such as electrics for batteries, drink bottles including Lucozade and Oasis; an entry saying "check time to fill each bottle".

All the seven flights allegedly targeted could carry between 241 and 285 passengers.

They were to cities including Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Washington, JFK in New York and Montreal.

The gang compiled information on flights and a USB memory stick found in the pocket of one defendant included details of flights from Heathrow to the US, Mr Wright said.

But he said the gang only examined details of outward-bound flights — they were not interested in return trips.

The seven flights would all have been in the air at the same time, he added: "The flights were particularly vulnerable to a co-ordinated attack while in flight. If each was blown up the potential for loss of life was considerable and there was little of no chance of saving any of them from their impending disaster."

At the time of their arrests they were "almost ready" to put their plan into action and some were prepared to lose their lives with "the cold eyed certainty of a fanatic".

The arrests in the summer of 2006 led to a huge security crackdown at British airports, with bans on passengers taking liquids on planes.

Ahmed Ali, Waheed Khan, and Zaman are from Walthamstow; Sarwar is from High Wycombe; Hussain is from Leyton, Gulzar from Barking; Savant from Stoke Newington; and Islam from Plaistow.

The trial was adjourned to tomorrow.

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