Thursday, July 8, 2010

Three guilty in liquid bomb terror plot to murder hundreds on transatlantic flights

Three would-be suicide bombers faced life in jail last night after being found guilty of conspiring to murder hundreds of people in an Al Qaeda-inspired terrorist attack.

Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Waheed Khan and Waheed Zaman were recruited by the British-born terror cell leader who plotted to blow Transatlantic airlines out of the sky with homemade liquid bombs disguised as soft drinks.

As part of the overall plot, Ali had been in contact with Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and sent coded emails to them, keeping them up to date with his efforts to recruit suicide bombers.

Guilty: (From left to right) Arafat Waheed Khan, Waheed Zaman and Ibrahim Savant conspired to murder hundreds of people in a terrorist attack

Prosecutors said the 'martyrdom videos' proved they were willing to sacrifice their lives, even if at the time of their arrest there was insufficient evidence to prove they had known what their targets would be.

It was the smashing of the plot in 2006 that led to chaos at Britain's airports and changed the way air passengers travel, with the introduction of sweeping new security measures.

The trio had been cleared at a previous trial of knowing aeroplanes were the targets, but a jury at Woolwich Crown Court yesterday found them guilty of conspiracy to murder.

Savant, 29, of Stoke Newington, East London, Khan, 29, and Zaman, 26, both of Walthamstow, North East London, will be sentenced on Monday.

The verdicts came nearly four years after the police and MI5 foiled the largest terrorist plot in the UK - an investigation costing in excess of £25million.

Evidence included 26,000 exhibits, 9,710 statements, 142 interviews with defendants and 800 seized electronic devices.

Legal costs in seven related high security trials are estimated to have been more than £110million with a total of 11 convictions for terrorist-linked offences.

In a rare move, the courts sanctioned a third trial of those convicted yesterday, saying it was in the public interests to secure verdicts.

The court heard anti-terrorist officers discovered suicide videos at the homes of Savant, Khan and Zaman, recorded against a backdrop of a black flag and containing threats to the public.

Pakistan-born Khan threatened on his video: 'We will rain upon you such a terror and destruction that you will never feel peace and security.'

British-born Savant, who had changed his name from Oliver to Ibrahim and converted to Islam in 1998, was a radical obsessed with martyrdom who had horrific DVDs, including beheadings marked 'ha ha ha', the court heard.

The men claimed the videos were spoofs, and pleaded guilty to causing a public nuisance at a previous trial in 2008.

But faced with the evidence of the videos, the fact all three defendants were obtaining new passports, had emptied their bank accounts or secured loans and had visited the house of Abdulla Ahmed Ali, the convicted ringleader of the airline bomb plot, the jury rejected their defence.

The plot that changed the way we travel: An armed police officer patrols outside Heathrow Airport's Terminal 4 in August 2006 following the counter-terrorist arrests

The flights he had singled out were from UK airports to Toronto, Montreal, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington and New York and were hidden on a memory stick Ali was carrying when arrested.

If successful, the explosions could have exceeded the carnage of the September 11 attacks.
Sue Hemming, head of the Crown Prosecution Service counterterrorism division, said the convictions were the culmination of years of work by police, the security services and prosecutors.

She said: 'Savant, Khan and Zaman were actively working alongside other men on a plot to cause death and injury on a massive scale.'

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