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Jet bombing plot was directed from Pakistan, jury told

Jet bombing plot was directed from Pakistan, jury told

Author: Paul Cheston
Publication: Evening Standard
Date: February 17, 2009

The Islamist extremist plot to blow up transatlantic passenger jets using British-based suicide bombers was directed from Pakistan, a court heard today.

Eight men from London and the home counties intended to arm themselves with homemade bombs disguised as soft drink bottles to kill hundreds of innocent people, the jury at Woolwich crown court was told.

Led by ringleaders Abdulla Ahmed Ali and Assad Sarwar, they had the "cold-eyed certainty of the fanatic", said Peter Wright QC, prosecuting.

Even though police moved in when the atrocity was "almost ready", it caused months of disruption at UK airports.

Mr Wright said: "It is the Crown's case that this plot was being directed from Pakistan. This was not something that had been devised merely by Ali and Sarwar, this was part of a much wider scheme of things.

"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."

Mr Wright said the component parts of the bombs "would be designed to resemble soft drinks bottles, batteries and other seemingly innocuous items that were to be carried on board the aircraft disguised in hand luggage. They would be assembled on the aircraft and detonated in flight by suicide bombers prepared to lose their lives.

"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.

"Had they been successful, a civilian death toll from an act of terrorism would have been on an almost unprecedented scale." Police rounded up the suspects in August 2006.

Mr Wright continued: "To them the identities of their victims was an irrelevance by race, colour, religion or creed. 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."

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

He was responsible for identifying other young Muslims who were vulnerable to radicalisation.

Mr Wright said Ali was arrested with a computer memory stick containing details of flights from Heathrow. Seven specific flights were highlighted, all leaving from Terminal 3 and due to be in mid-flight at the same time. The planes were travelling to Montreal and Toronto in Canada and San Francisco, Washington, Chicago and New York in the US.

All eight men have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to murder.

They are: Abdulla Ahmed Ali, aka Ahmed Ali Khan, 28, of Walthamstow; Assad Sarwar, 28, of High Wycombe; Tanvir Hussain, 27, of Leyton; Ibrahim Savant, 28, of Stoke Newington; Arafat Waheed Khan, 27, of Walthamstow; Waheed Zaman, 24, of Walthamstow; Umar Islam, aka Brian Young, 30, of Plaistow; and Donald Stewart-Whyte, 22, of High Wycombe. Savant, Khan, Zaman, Islam and Stewart-Whyte face one additional charge of conspiracy to murder, which they also deny. The trial is expected to last for 10 months.

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