A Woolwich Crown Court jury yesterday found three British men guilty of forming a plan to kill thousands of people by simultaneously blowing up seven planes between London Heathrow and the US and Canada in
August 2006, using home-made bombs disguised as harmless soft drinks. The discovery of this plot was later directly responsible for the global ban on the carriage of liquids through airports and on aircraft that has cost airports, retailers and the travelling public billions of dollars in lost sales and confiscations.
US sources have insisted that if these attacks had been carried out as planned, then the death toll would have been equally as serious as the 3,000 people that died in the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. The flights that were allegedly targeted were from Heathrow to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, Montreal and Toronto.
Yesterday, the court convicted Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, Tanvir Hussain, 28, and Assad Sarwar, 29, of conspiring to detonate suicide bombs disguised as drinks, although four other men were found not guilty. UK and US security officials and politicians expressed their relief at the convictions yesterday after a court had found two of the men not guilty at a previous trial last year.
There was an international outcry at that verdict considering that uncovering this plot was the single largest counter-terrorism operation ever mounted by British police and the weight of evidence found against the men was overwhelming.
In essence, the prosecution case was that the plot involved the terrorists gaining entry to seven flights from Heathrow's Terminal 3 as ordinary passengers on the same day, with each flight capable of carrying between 241 and 285 passengers. At the same time, it said that phone tapping of conversations between some of the men had suggested that some terminal buildings were also bombing targets, along with UK gas storage terminals and oil refineries.
In evidence, the police said it suspected al Qaeda was involved in the planning of the incident with known Egyptian member Abu Obaidah al Masri, who has also been linked by British police with a strong involvement in masterminding the terrible suicide bombings in London on July 7, 2005.
Evidence of the convicted men's involvement with the plot included six martyrdom videos claiming that the attacks were to be revenge for US and British involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, although in court the men insisted that they never actually intended to carry the plans out.
But police also found materials for bomb making at the men's homes and a makeshift bomb factory at a flat belonging to one of the men in London.
The prosecution told the court that 19 British men were originally arrested after the bomb factory was discovered to contain all the liquid components necessary to make explosives once onboard the aircraft. The liquids were contained in Lucozade drinks bottles and prosecutors said they were potentially hard to detect. Electronic detonators were also found. Police claim that the intention was to assemble the explosives onboard the aircraft.
In all, police investigators said they confiscated a variety of evidence intended for bomb making, including sports-drink bottles, batteries, syringes, food colouring, an amp-volt reader, a pH reader, electronic scales, a digital thermometer, bulbs and wiring, hydrogen peroxide and citric acid.
The aforementioned three men found guilty of being at the heart of the plot are expected to be sentenced next Monday.