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15 April 2024

Three found guilty of UK rucksack bomb plot


Three British Muslim men were found guilty on Thursday of planning a string of bombings that prosecutors said could have been deadlier than the July 7, 2005, attacks on London's transport network.

Irfan Naseer, 31, Irfan Khalid, 27, and Ashik Ali, 27, were convicted of being "central figures" in an Islamist extremist plot to set off eight rucksack bombs and possibly other timed devices in crowded areas.

The three men, all from Birmingham, central England, had denied charges of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts during their trial at Woolwich Crown Court in London.

Police said it was the most significant terror plot to be uncovered in Britain since the 2006 conspiracy to blow up transatlantic airliners using bombs in drinks bottles.

Two of the men -- Naseer and Khalid -- travelled to Pakistan for terror training while Naseer also helped others to travel to the country for the same purpose, the court heard.

The group were also heavily influenced by the teachings of American-born Al-Qaeda preacher Anwar Al Awlaki, who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011, police said.

Judge Richard Henriques said the three men will face life in prison when they are sentenced in April or May.

He told Naseer: "You were seeking to recruit a team of somewhere between six and eight suicide bombers to carry out a spectacular bombing campaign, one which would create an anniversary along the lines of 7/7 or 9/11."

Naseer was found guilty of five charges, Khalid four, and Ali three, all between December 25, 2010 and September 19, 2011.

Prosecutor Karen Jones said that while the "precise targets remained unclear" there could have been "catastrophic" damage and loss of life from the plot had it gone to plan.

"The evidence we put to the court showed the defendants discussing with awe and admiration the attacks of 9/11 and 7/7. These terrorists wanted to do something bigger, speaking of how 7/7 had 'gone a bit wrong'," Jones said.

"Having travelled to Pakistan for expert training and preparation, Naseer and Khalid returned to the UK where they discussed attacks involving up to eight rucksacks.

"Had they not been stopped, the consequences would have been catastrophic."

The group tried to fund the plot by fraudulently posing as street collectors for the charity Muslim Aid and they managed to raised £12,000 ($18,400, 13,700 euros), the trial heard.

But the group then lost three quarters of that sum while playing the foreign currency markets and had to take out loans.

British domestic intelligence agency MI5 recorded them discussing the plot during the 18-month investigation that led to their arrests.

During the surveillance Naseer was heard talking about mixing poison into creams such as Vaseline or Nivea and smearing them on car handles to kill people, and about welding blades to a truck and driving it into people.