Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 16:22 UK

Profiles: Airline plot accused

Operation Overt was a massive security operation to smash what prosecutors said was a plot to murder people using liquid bombs on planes. Who were the men convicted?


Video showing Abdulla Ahmed Ali

Abdulla Ahmed Ali, the leader of the plot, was born in Newham, London.

He told the court he had become more politically and religiously active as a teenager, but said he was not an extremist.

An engineering graduate, he chose not to go into industry after leaving City University in 2002, instead pursuing business opportunities in Pakistan.

In 2003, in association with a British charity, he travelled to Pakistan where he helped in refugee camps for people fleeing fighting in Afghanistan.

Married with a son, he was shocked by "appalling" conditions in the camps, where he witnessed many people dying.

Later, he came to believe aid work was an ineffective way of helping, and decided to tackle what he believed was the root cause, Western foreign policy.

His defence team said the plot had been an audacious stunt intended to direct public attention to a documentary intended to change opinion on foreign policy.

The suicide videos he and his fellow accused Tanvir Hussain had made were to be combined with graphic footage for a documentary that they would post on Youtube, he said.

He admitted he had used the internet to research how to make an explosive device using a drinks bottle, hydrogen peroxide and batteries, but said he had had no intention of blowing up a plane, or hurting anyone.

Ahmed Ali, 28, is thought to have learned his bomb-making skills in Pakistan - he was there at the same time as the leaders behind the London bombing on 7 July, 2005 and the failed plot to bomb London on 21 July in the same year.


Assad Sarwar
Assad Sarwar admitted using a false name to buy hydrogen peroxide

Described as the gang's quartermaster, Sarwar was responsible for buying and hiding the bomb-making equipment, some of which he hid in woods in High Wycombe. The security services codenamed him "Rich Food" during their surveillance.

In court he denied he was part of a plot to blow up aircraft, saying suicide bombers ended up "in hell fire". He did not record a video denouncing western foreign policy.

Born and raised in High Wycombe and describing himself as "shy", Sarwar, 29, turned down a place at university in Chichester because he was homesick.

His second attempt at Brunel University, first with a sports science course, then earth sciences, also failed because he found the work too hard.

Sarwar said he suffered low self-esteem and thought he was "useless," following these failures.

He had a number of jobs including for Royal Mail, and BT, which he left as he said he could not cope with the work.

He met Ahmed Ali in Pakistan while helping at an Afghan refugee camp in early 2003.

Sarwar described Ahmed Ali as having "leading characteristics", while he was of "weak character".

They met again after lectures at an east London school and discussed the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq and were both frustrated by the numbers of refugees.

While Sarwar was under surveillance he was seen buying household items that could be used to make bombs.

Following the arrests, police recovered a videotape containing martyrdom videos recorded by his co-conspirators which he had hidden in his garage. During the trial he admitted learning how to make bombs while in Pakistan.


Video showing Tanvir Hussain

Hussain, 28, was described as a fashion conscious person who stayed out with friends and said his life was "just having fun".

He said he agreed to appear in an al-Qaeda-style militant video, but denied it was part of a set of martyrdom films. However, prosecutors say that he was a key member of the team, helping Ahmed Ali at key moments of the conspiracy.

The security services watched him and Ahmed Ali making devices in the bomb factory and buying tools for bomb-making.

The mystery surrounding Hussain is that he took part in the plot even though he knew that MI5 were interested in him - he was stopped and questioned at different times.

In his defence, Hussain said that Ahmed Ali, whom he knew from college, told him of his plan to make a documentary, protesting against foreign policy, accompanied by a "harmless" explosive device.

He said he was "taken aback" by the plans - but said Ahmed Ali told him: "It ain't going to be nothing big, just a loud bang to cause panic and alarm."


Video allegedly showing Umar Islam

The jury reached no verdict on whether Islam, 31, was part of the plan for airliners. But it did find him guilty of conspiracy to murder and he faces a life sentence.

Formerly Brian Young, Islam became a Muslim in 2001. He changed his name by deed poll so he could enter Saudi Arabia to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the Hajj.

Umar Islam was a close associate of both Ahmed Ali and Sarwar - and in his defence he said he was actually planning an overland trip to Pakistan with Ali and Tanvir Hussain. His wife was also pregnant at the time of his arrest.

He was one of many of the defendants who worked for a now defunct Islamic charity in east London, which led to his travels to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to help with refugee relief efforts.

Umar Islam recorded a video hours before police arrested the men. The jury watched the video, in which he said: "We are doing this in order to gain the pleasure of our Lord and Allah loves us to die and kill in his path. Martyrdom operations upon martyrdom operations will keep on raining on these Kuffar [unbelievers] …

"I'm happy and I do not fear the blame of any blamer of what I'm going to do, as you call us terrorists; but you can see we don't mind that, if you call us terrorists, because we will keep on terrorising you until you learn your lesson."

Islam told the jury that he was a a "spiritual" man and a humanitarian who was not capable of carrying out a terrorist attack.

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