Page last updated at 16:49 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Men tried over 'plane bomb plot'

Top (l-r) Abdullah Ahmed Ali, Assad Sarwar, Tanvir Hussain, Ibrahim Savant (bottom l-r), Arafat Waheed Khan, Waheed Zaman, Umar Islam, Donald Douglas Stewart-Whyte (bottom l-r)
The prosecution said the men were "engaged in a most deadly plot"

Eight men plotted to use "home-made bombs" disguised as soft drinks to blow up transatlantic planes mid-flight, Woolwich Crown Court has heard.

The jury was told that had the alleged plot come off, there would have been deaths on an "unprecedented scale".

The bombs would be made of household items smuggled on board and detonated in mid-flight.

All eight men deny the alleged plot, which counter-terrorist police claim to have foiled in August 2006.

Prosecutor Peter Wright said the ringleaders of the alleged conspiracy were two men, Abdulla Ahmed Ali and Assad Sarwar, from Walthamstow, east London, and High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

'Indifferent to carnage'

Mr Wright told the jury: "The means by which they intended to inflict heavy casualties on ordinary civilians was by the carrying out of a series of co-ordinated and deadly explosions.

"These men were indifferent to the carnage that was likely to ensue if their plans were successful... They intended, with others, to cause a series of co-ordinated explosions aboard a number of transatlantic passenger aircraft."

The explosions were to be caused by the detonation in-flight of home-made bombs made from everyday household items such as drinks bottles and batteries which could be smuggled on board, Mr Wright said.

What these men intended to bring about together and with others was a violent and deadly statement of intent that would have a truly global impact
Prosecutor Peter Wright

"Inevitably such an event would have fatal consequences for the various passengers and crew who happened, quite by chance, to be flying to North America on the day selected by them to commit this atrocity.

"Consequently, it is the Crown's case that these men and others were actively engaged in a most deadly plot designed to bring about what would have been, had they been successful, a civilian death toll from an act of terrorism on an almost unprecedented scale."

Mr Ali and Mr Sarwar were arrested by counter-terrorism police on 9 August, 2006, when it was believed they were "almost ready" to launch the terror strike, Mr Wright said.

The pair were the plot's ringleaders, while the others were the "foot-soldiers" prepared to carry out the bombings, he added.

While they had no knowledge of the scale of the conspiracy, they had the "cold-eyed certainty of the fanatic".

He said: "They were prepared to strike a blow in which they would lose their lives but it was a blow that would reverberate across the globe."

Flight research

Undercover detectives had followed Mr Ali and Mr Sarwar for weeks as they made the final preparations for the attacks, the court heard.

Mr Wright said the men and other conspirators had been extremely busy and the intended date of the terror strike "was not far off".

The prosecution alleges the plot was being directed from Pakistan.

"This was not something that had been devised merely by Mr Ali and Mr Sarwar once they had realised they shared a common interest, this was part of a much wider scheme of things," Mr Wright said.

"Acts of terrorism on an international scale, directed from abroad using home-grown terrorists, young, radicalised Muslims prepared to lose their lives in a global act of jihad."

A computer memory stick containing details of flights from Heathrow Airport to North American destinations was found in Mr Ali's pocket when he was arrested, the court heard.

It held details of flights operated by three carriers, American Airlines, United Airlines and Air Canada, from August to October 2006.

Seven services, all leaving from Terminal 3 of the London airport, all due to be mid-flight at the same time, and all one-way only, were highlighted.

They were travelling to Montreal and Toronto in Canada and San Francisco, Washington, Chicago and New York in the United States.

'Virtues of martyrdom'

Other key conspirators were overheard discussing whether to target other flights from different terminals and as many as 18 suicide bombers, Mr Wright said.

The court heard Mr Ali was an "influential figure who led by example" and who "exalted the virtues of martyrdom as a modern-day method of warfare".

The married father-of-one was found with an address book containing details of the plot, including preparations for a disguise and instructions of how to prepare the bombs, the jury was told.

Police discovered martyrdom videos recorded by six members of the gang, the court heard.

A cassette tape found in Sarwar's car featured two of the men, Arafat Waheed Khan and Umar Islam.

A search of the garage at Mr Sarwar's High Wycombe home uncovered recordings by Mr Ali, Mr Savant, Mr Zaman, Mr Hussain, and a second by Mr Khan.

Mr Wright said the films showed the men contemplating a violent death in the name of Islam.

Those in the dock are: Abdulla Ahmed Ali, also known as Ahmed Ali Khan, 28, of Prospect Hill, Walthamstow; Assad Sarwar, 28, of Walton Drive, High Wycombe;

Tanvir Hussain, 27, of Nottingham Road, Leyton, east London; Ibrahim Savant, 28, of Denver Road, Stoke Newington, north London;

Arafat Waheed Khan, 27, of Farnan Avenue, Walthamstow; Waheed Zaman, 24, of Queen's Road, Walthamstow;

Umar Islam, also known as Brian Young, 30, of Bushey Road, Plaistow, east London; and Donald Stewart-Whyte, 22, of Hepplewhite Close, High Wycombe.

Mr Savant, Mr Khan, Mr Zaman, Mr Islam and Mr Stewart-Whyte face one additional charge of conspiracy to murder, which again they deny.

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday.

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