Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

'Airliners plot': The allegations

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 eight men accused of planning to blow up seven aircraft

The trial of eight men accused of plotting to explode home-made bombs on transatlantic jets has begun amid high security at Woolwich Crown Court in south London.

The men each deny a charge of conspiracy to murder, contrary to the 1977 Criminal Law Act, linked to an alleged plot counter-terrorist police claimed they foiled in August 2006.

These are some of the key allegations of the prosecution case in a trial that may last for an estimated ten months.


Peter Wright QC, prosecuting, said the men had been active participants in a plot to carry out an "act of holy war or Jihad" by blowing up passenger jets flying from the UK to the United States and Canada.

He said some of the accused were would-be suicide bombers, who planned to blow up themselves, and the aircraft in which they were travelling, with home-made liquid explosives concealed in soft-drink bottles.

It was a discovery of the alleged bomb plot in August 2006 that led to all airlines imposing strict prohibitions on passengers carrying liquids on board commercial flights.

The leaders of the plot in the UK, said Mr Wright, were 28-year-old Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, from Walthamstow, and Assad Sarwar, also 28, from High Wycombe.

But, said Mr Wright, the real leader of the plot was a man called Mohammad Gulzar, in Pakistan.

He said: "This plot was being directed from Pakistan.

"Plans for acts of terrorism on an international scale were directed from abroad, using home-grown terrorists."


The prosecution says the victims of the plot would have been the passengers and crew on at least seven aircraft flying from Heathrow to cities in the US and Canada.

The aircraft were Boeing 777, 767 and 763-type passenger jets.

Each plane could carry between 241 and 285 people and the prosecution said that if the bombs had gone off the number of victims would have been in the "many hundreds".

Mr Wright said police found a USB memory stick on Mr Ali following his arrest detailing a large number of transatlantic flights.

The memory stick allegedly listed scheduled flights from three carriers - American Airlines, United Airlines and Air Canada:

1415 UA931 LHR-SAN FRANCISCO (United Airlines)

1500 AC849 LHR-TORONTO (Air Canada)

1515 AC865 LHR-MONTREAL (Air Canada)

1540 UA959 LHR-CHICAGO (United Airlines)

1620 UA925 LHR-WASHINGTON (United Airlines)

1635 AA131 LHR-NEW YORK (American Airlines)

1650 AA91 LHR-CHICAGO (American Airlines)

Mr Wright noted that the alleged bombers apparently had no interest in return flights.

"It was as though the person booking the flights had no interest in coming back," he said.

Mr Wright said evidence found on Mr Ali indicated that the alleged bombers had planned to time their "co-ordinated" attacks so that the last plane would be airborne before the bomb in the first plane detonated.

"Once the flights began the authorities would not have been able to stop the other bombings because the planes would have been in mid-air," he said.


The prosecution alleges that the accused planned to make bombs using simple household ingredients and items, such as torch batteries, flashbulbs and disposable cameras.

Hydrogen peroxide and another readily available material would be mixed to form a "liquid explosive capable of being detonated with terrible effect," said Mr Wright.

Lucozade bottle
The prosecution alleges that soft-drink bottles were to be used

The prosecution says the men planned to drill out the bottom of a 500ml plastic Oasis or Lucozade bottle, drain the soft drink using a syringe and substitute the hydrogen peroxide-based mixture.

By using this method, the bottle seals would remain intact - allaying suspicions of anyone checking the men onto the aircraft.

To further distract security at Heathrow, Mr Wright said the men also planned to pack a "dirty magazine" and condoms to disguise the fact that suspect "was not a radical Islamised terrorist".

All the ingredients would be assembled by the men once their aircraft were airborne.

At the chosen time, the bombs would be detonated by connecting a disposable camera to a small amount of another explosive, which would set off the main bomb.

The BBC has not comprehensively detailed the alleged bombs' composition.


Mr Wright said a search of Mr Sarwar's car after he was arrested yielded other "important items".

These included a tape with two recordings of Mr Khan and Mr Islam making "what purported to be suicide videos."

The men were filmed against the background of a black flag with writing on it, similar to a flag found in Mr Sarwar's car.

The videos, said Mr Wright, showed the men "had contemplated losing their lives in a perceived act of martyrdom in the name of Islam."

In his video, Mr Islam was heard saying: "We are doing this in order to gain the pleasure of our Lord and Allah loves us to die and kill in his path.

He continues: "I say to you disbelievers that as you bomb, you will be bombed. As you kill, you will be killed. And if you want to kill our women and children then the same thing will happen to you. This is not a joke."

Asked, apparently by Mr Ali, about the innocent people who might die in an indiscriminate attack, Mr Islam replied: You are just sitting there, you are still funding the Army, you have not put down your leader, you have not pressured them enough.

"Most of them are too busy watching Home and Away and Eastenders, complaining about the World Cup, drinking your alcohol, to care about anything."


Those in the dock are: Abdulla Ahmed Ali, aka Ahmed Ali Khan, 28, of Prospect Hill, Walthamstow; Assad Sarwar, 28, of Walton Drive, High Wycombe; Tanvir Hussain, 27, of Nottingham Road, Leyton; Ibrahim Savant, 28, of Denver Road, Stoke Newington; Arafat Waheed Khan, 27, of Farnan Avenue, Walthamstow; Waheed Zaman, 24, of Queen's Road, Walthamstow; Umar Islam, aka Brian Young, 30, of Bushey Road, Plaistow and Donald Stewart-Whyte, 22, of Hepplewhite Close, High Wycombe.

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

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