Three guilty of airline bomb plot bigger than 9/11

September 8th, 2009 - 4:45 am ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 8 (IANS) Three men have been found guilty of plotting to kill thousands of people by blowing up planes flying from London to America with home-made liquid bombs, BBC reported Monday.
A Woolwich Crown Court jury convicted Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, Tanvir Hussain, 28, and Assad Sarwar, 29, of conspiring to activate bombs disguised as drinks.

Four other men were found not guilty of involvement in the suicide bomb plot.

The men’s arrests in August 2006 led to new airport restrictions on liquids and brought chaos to travellers.

The jury heard that at the time of his arrest, plot ringleader Ahmed Ali had identified seven US and Canada-bound flights to blow up over the Atlantic within a two-and-a-half-hour period.

They were flights from London’s Heathrow airport to San Francisco, Washington, New York, Chicago, Toronto and Montreal.

His so-called “quartermaster”, Sarwar, had secured bomb ingredients at his home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and a flat in the Walthamstow area of east London had become the bomb factory.

There the men put together a special mixture of chemicals that they planned to take onto planes in ordinary sports drinks bottles stored within hand luggage.

Ahmed Ali, of Walthamstow, Hussain, of Leyton, east London, and Sarwar had been found guilty previously of a conspiracy to murder involving liquid bombs.

But the jury in that first trial could not decide whether their plans extended to detonating the devices on planes. Now a second jury has decided that such a scheme did exist.

The plot is believed by intelligence sources to have been directed by Al Qaeda. The BBC understands that the key contact for the plotters in Pakistan was a British man, Rashid Rauf. He was reported to have been killed in November 2008 by a US missile strike against militants in Pakistan.

With thousands killed in the air, the explosions could have caused more devastation than the Sep 11 attacks on the US.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said the plot had sparked the largest counter-terrorism investigation in Britain’s history, known as Operation Overt.

Ibrahim Savant, 28, Arafat Khan, 28, Waheed Zaman, 25, and Donald Stewart-Whyte, 23, were all found not guilty of conspiring to murder by blowing up planes. Stewart-Whyte, from High Wycombe, was also cleared of a general charge of conspiracy to murder.

The jury failed to reach verdicts on general conspiracy to murder charges against Savant, from Stoke Newington, east London, and Khan and Zaman, both from Walthamstow.

An eighth man, Umar Islam, 31, from Plaistow, east London, was convicted of conspiracy to murder, but the jury failed to reach a verdict on whether he was involved in a plot to blow up aircraft.

Police installed a hidden camera in the Walthamstow flat used as a bomb factory and saw both Ahmed Ali and Hussain recording jihadist suicide videos denouncing the West.

The men’s defence was that they had been planning a political stunt, including small explosions intended only to frighten people at airports.

These political demonstrations, they said, would be backed up by a documentary they were making about western injustices. The videos they had made were part of that documentary, they said.

The world’s airlines were thrown into chaos in 2006 after the men’s arrests, as security experts immediately introduced restrictions on liquids in hand luggage.

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