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Terrorists had hatched plot to bomb UK

Last updated on: March 22, 2006 09:23 IST
A seven-member gang of alleged terrorists of Pakistani origin armed with explosives was arrested just before they decided on targets for a bombing campaign on the British mainland, a court was told in London.

The gangsters are charged with conspiring between January 1, 2003 and March 31, 2004, to "cause by explosive substances, an explosion or explosions of a nature likely to endanger life."

The accused are Omar Khyam, 24, Waheed Mahmood, 34, Shujah Mahmood, 19, and Jawad Akbar, 22, all from Crawley, West Sussex, Anthony Garcia alias Rahman Adam, 23, of Ilford, East London, Nabeel Hussain, 20, of Horley, Surrey and Salahuddin Amin, 31, from Luton, Bedfordshire. They deny the charges.

On the first day of a four-month long trial of the gangsters, all British citizens of Pakistani origin, a jury at the Old Bailey was told on Tuesday that a plot stretching from New York to London and Pakistan was hatched in 2003 to set off a series of explosions in the UK.

"The interception came only when most of the necessary components were in place and all that remained before their plans achieved their ultimate goal was for the target or targets to be finally agreed," said David Waters, QC, prosecuting.

"They played their respective roles in a plan to acquire the ingredients necessary to manufacture a bomb or bombs which would be deployed at the very least to destroy strategic plants within the United Kingdom, or more realistically to kill and injure citizens of the UK."

Khyam, Garcia and Hussain are also accused of possessing more than half a tonne of ammonium nitrate fertilizer which can be used to make bombs. The cache was seized during a police raid on a West London storage depot in 2004.

Waheed and Shuja Mahmood, who are brothers, also deny having aluminium powder for terrorism between October 1, 2003 and March 31, 2004.

Waters said the case against the men would rely on the evidence of Mohammed Babar, an American citizen arrested in New York in March 2004 on terrorism charges. Babar subsequently pleaded guilty in secret to a string of crimes, including two offences which Waters said related to the "British bomb plot".

Waters said that Babar, a former member of al-Muhajiroun, an extremist group formally banned in the UK, had immunity in this case, and that he would be presented to the Old Bailey as a witness who had contact with most of the defendants.

Babar, Waters explained, was an American Muslim who had become disenchanted with the West after the first Gulf war. He left the US soon after the September 11 attacks and went to live in Pakistan in late 2001. While he was in Pakistan, he met Waheed Mahmood and went on to instruct the defendants in the use of explosives.

"Khyam's motivation, as explained to Babar, was clear. The UK was unscathed, it needed to be hit because of its support for the US," Waters said.

The plot was unearthed after extensive surveillance by police anti-terrorism officers and the security services, the prosecution said. Waters said some of the surveillance tapes would be played to the court.

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