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History > 2008 > UK > Terrorism (II)




British Muslim

is convicted

of being mastermind for al-Qa'ida

Mancunian was so vital
he recruited another man
to carry incriminating files


Friday, 19 December 2008
The Independent
By Kim Pilling


A Muslim man from Manchester yesterday became the first ever Briton to be convicted of directing terrorism.

Rangzieb Ahmed, 33, travelled to Dubai from Pakistan as part of a three-man al-Qa'ida cell in December 2005 and was set to fly out to South Africa as part of a "major activity". But the plans went awry when his boss, Hamza Rabia – al-Qa'ida's suspected former third-in-command – was killed by an air strike in Pakistan. Ahmed was apparently considered so important within the organisation that he then summoned another British man, Habib Ahmed, 29, to the Middle East to carry incriminating diaries containing details of top al-Qa'ida operatives that were written in invisible ink. Among the details in the diaries – which were described in court during the 11-week trial as a terrorist's contact book – were those of Hamza Rabia, Mamoun Darkazanli, a suspected terrorist financier linked to the 2004 Madrid bombings, and Khalid Habib, a noted guerrilla fighter.

Counter-terrorism officers from Greater Manchester Police were already monitoring the two men and bugged their hotel room in Dubai, where they made several coded references to al-Qa'ida.

Habib Ahmed, a taxi driver from Cheetham Hill, north Manchester, was convicted of one count of professing to belong to al-Qa'ida but was cleared of attending a terrorist training camp. His wife, Mehreen Haji, 28, was cleared of two counts of arranging funding for the purposes of terrorism.

Rangzieb Ahmed, of Fallowfield, south Manchester, was cleared of possessing a rucksack containing traces of explosives for the use of terrorism, but convicted of directing terrorism.

Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Porter, head of Greater Manchester's counter-terrorism unit, said: "Rangzieb Ahmed is a very dangerous man. He consorts with senior terrorist figures and has devoted his life to creating and working with terrorist networks. We believe that he was intent on masterminding terrorist attacks and would have considered mass murder part of his duty.

"What we do know is that he and Habib Ahmed had close contact with al-Qa'ida's senior figures and were arranging for British citizens to visit terrorist camps and meet those willing to fund terrorism."

British Muslim is convicted of being mastermind for al-Qa'ida, I, 19.12.2008, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-muslim-is-convicted-of-being-mastermind-for-alqaida-1203687.html






Abu Qatada ordered to return to prison


Tuesday December 2 2008
13.30 GMT
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk
on Tuesday December 02 2008.
It was last updated at 13.29 on December 02 2008.

The radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada today had his bail revoked and was returned to indefinite detention in a maximum security prison, pending the outcome of a legal battle over his deportation to Jordan.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission, in effect Britain's national security court, ruled that evidence from the security services heard in secret, had convinced them that there was now an increased risk that Qatada would try to abscond.

Qatada, who was dubbed by a Spanish judge as Osama bin Laden's right hand man in Europe, was released on bail in June to live with his family in west London, under a 22-hour curfew, after the court of appeal ruled it was unsafe to return him to Jordan.

The radical cleric has already spent three and half years in maximum security jails since he was first declared a risk to national security in January 2001, on the grounds that he encouraged other extremists to commit acts of terrorism by providing religious sanction for them.

The SIAC judges said that their decision to revoke his bail was based on the evidence they had heard in secret. "The secretary of state relies on information contained in the closed case to justify the revocation of bail." This remains secret and is only spelled out in a separate closed, unpublished judgment.

The open version of the judgment published today said that none of the reasons put forward by the Home Office in the public sessions of the commission's two-day hearing would justify the revocation of his bail. These included the seizure at his home of memory cards, MP3 players, computer discs and video tapes.

They also rejected security service arguments that the publication of a message from a senior al-Qaeda figure on a jihadist website in July appealing to religious scholars to return to the battlefield, and the pending government appeal to the House of Lords against the decision not to deport him, also increased the risk of absconding.

The judges said it has been a longstanding assessment of the security services that Qatada, also known as Mohammad Othman, is a senior religious extremist with links to al-Qaeda and these factors in themselves did not justify revoking his bail.

Before the Siac hearing got under way it had been reported that Qatada was trying to flee the country, but Mr Justice Mitting, sitting with two other immigration judges, said that the cleric's declared interest in renouncing his Jordanian citizenship and attempting to go to the country of his birth, Palestine, did not amount to a breach of his bail. They said that they did not regard as at all significant the fact that he had not formally notified the Home Office of attempts on his behalf to find a third country, other than Jordan, willing to take him.

"If the appellant identifies a state or territory willing to receive him, and seeks to put into effect his declared wish to go there, he will be fulfilling the obligation imposed on him by the deportation order to depart the United Kingdom... We do not, however, see any realistic prospect that either of these two possibilities will be open to him in the near or medium term," they added.

During the hearing, his barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said that his lawyer, Gareth Peirce, and writer, Victoria Brittain, had been involved in the initial attempts to find a country willing to take Qatada.

The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said she was pleased that Qatada's bail had been revoked: "He poses a significant threat to our national security and I am pleased that he will be detained pending his deportation, which I'm working hard to secure."

Qatada was back in Belmarsh prison in east London last night, but is expected to be moved to Long Lartin maximum security prison in the near future.

    Abu Qatada ordered to return to prison, G, 2.12.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/dec/02/abu-qatada-jail






'I am a terrorist,'

Glasgow airport accused

told police

NHS doctor claims
he did not intend to kill or injure people


Monday November 17 2008
14.00 GMT
James Sturcke and agencies
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk
on Monday November 17 2008.
It was last updated at 14.26 on November 17 2008.


An NHS doctor who crashed into Glasgow airport in a car laden with petrol and gas canisters admitted to police that he was a terrorist, a court heard today.

Bilal Abdulla, an Iraqi, said he told Scottish officers minutes after his arrest that he was a terrorist as defined by English law. Abdulla, 29, giving evidence for his defence at Woolwich crown court, said he did not intend to kill or injure people.

The jury heard the junior doctor planned to flee Britain via Turkey the day after a failed terrorist attack on London's West End in June last year. However, as they approached the airport his friend Kafeel Ahmed, 28, suddenly swerved their Jeep into the terminal building without warning.

Abdulla admitted he threw a petrol bomb and fought with bystanders as he got out of the burning vehicle. He said Ahmed suddenly passed him the lit petrol bomb and he tossed it away to protect himself.

Asked if he told an officer after his subsequent arrest that he was a terrorist, he said: "I said something along those lines, but it was more like a question.

"Everyone was saying you are a terrorist, you are arrested under the Terrorism Act and so forth. That is my case in a nutshell. I am told I am a terrorist, but is your government not a terrorist, is your army not a terrorist?

"By the definition of the act, according to English law, yes. That is my aim to change opinion using violence, using fire devices."

The two men wanted to highlight the plight of people in Iraq and Afghanistan with a series of incendiary device attacks, the defence has said.

Abdulla said the airport attack was "clumsy" and if they had intended to kill people they would have done it a different way.

Asked by his barrister, Jim Sturman QC, whether he had planned to kill anyone, he said: "I never had such an agreement with Kafeel; from the beginning, from day one, we said we will not kill or injure any innocent person.

"Look at this incident. This incident, if it was to kill people or cause an explosion, we would not have done it that way. It looks very clumsy. Say we entered the terminal, the car is not already set on fire.

"If you want to cause something instantaneous, if you want to cause a fire immediately, the car should be set on fire when you are driving into the airport."

Abdulla is on trial with Mohammed Asha, 28, accused of conspiracy to murder and to cause explosions. The two men deny the offences.

Ahmed, an Indian engineering student, died one month later from critical burns, having doused himself in petrol in the attack.

The case continues.

    'I am a terrorist,' Glasgow airport accused told police, G, 17.11.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/nov/17/glasgow-airport-attack-trial






Response to 9/11

was 'huge overreaction' - ex-MI5 chief


Saturday October 18 2008
The Guardian
Richard Norton-Taylor
This article appeared in the Guardian on Saturday October 18 2008 on p1 of the Top stories section.
It was last updated at 02.14 on October 18 2008.


A former head of MI5 today describes the response to the September 11 2001 attacks on the US as a "huge overreaction" and says the invasion of Iraq influenced young men in Britain who turned to terrorism.

In an interview with the Guardian, Stella Rimington calls al-Qaida's attack on the US "another terrorist incident" but not qualitatively different from any others.

"That's not how it struck me. I suppose I'd lived with terrorist events for a good part of my working life and this was as far as I was concerned another one," she says.

In common with Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, who retired as MI5's director general last year, Rimington, who left 12 years ago, has already made it clear she abhorred "war on terror" rhetoric and the government's abandoned plans to hold terrorism suspects for 42 days without charge.

Today, she goes further by criticising politicians including Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, for trying to outbid each other in their opposition to terrorism and making national security a partisan issue.

It all began, she suggests, with September 11. "National security has become much more of a political issue than it ever was in my day," she says. "Parties are tending to use it as a way of trying to get at the other side. You know, 'We're more tough on terrorism than you are.' I think that's a bad move, quite frankly."

Rimington mentions Guantánamo Bay, the practice of extraordinary rendition, and the invasion of Iraq - three issues which the majority in Britain's security and intelligence establishment opposed privately at the time.

She challenges claims, notably made by Tony Blair, that the war in Iraq was not related to the radicalisation of Muslim youth in Britain.

Asked what impact the war had on the terrorist threat, she replies: "Well, I think all one can do is look at what those people who've been arrested or have left suicide videos say about their motivation. And most of them, as far as I'm aware, say that the war in Iraq played a significant part in persuading them that this is the right course of action to take."

She adds: "So I think you can't write the war in Iraq out of history. If what we're looking at is groups of disaffected young men born in this country who turn to terrorism, then I think to ignore the effect of the war in Iraq is misleading."

    Response to 9/11 was 'huge overreaction' - ex-MI5 chief, G, 18.10.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/oct/18/stella-rimington-9-11-mi5






Glasgow airport car bombers

plotted reign of fear, trial hears

Two NHS doctors wanted 'indiscriminate and wholesale' murder using car bombs in London and Glasgow, court hears


Thursday October 09 2008 13:00 BST
Jo Adetunji and agencies
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Thursday October 09 2008.
It was last updated at 14:59 on October 09 2008.


Two NHS doctors plotted "indiscriminate and wholesale" murder in a series of car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow, a court heard today.

Mohammed Asha, 28, and Bilal Abdulla, 29, are accused of trying to explode two car bombs in London and attempting a suicide bomb attack on Glasgow airport last June.

Opening for the prosecution, Jonathan Laidlaw QC told Woolwich crown court that the two men were members of an Islamic terrorist cell who hoped to leave the public "gripped by fear" over where they would strike next - playing on anxieties left by the July 7 2005 attacks in London.

Laidlaw said: "Their plan was to carry out a series of attacks on the public using bombs concealed in vehicles. No warnings were to be given and the cars were to be positioned in busy urban areas.

"In short, these men were intent on committing murder on an indiscriminate and a wholesale scale. In addition to the killing of the innocent, the objective of course was to seize public attention both here in this country and internationally."

Asha and Abdulla are accused of leaving two cars packed with petrol, gas cylinders and nails parked in London's West End on 29 June 2007. Both failed to detonate.

Hundreds of people were evacuated when one of the cars was found outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub in Haymarket in the early hours of the morning. The second car, parked nearby, was inadvertently towed to a car pound before its contents were discovered and it was made safe.

The prosecution suggested that it had been parked so that it would be in the path of those escaping from the first car bomb explosion.

Abdulla, who at the time worked as a diabetes specialist at the Royal Alexandra hospital in Paisley, was arrested the following day after a burning Jeep Cherokee loaded with gas canisters and petrol cans was driven into the main terminal building of Glasgow airport.

A third man, Kafeel Ahmed, believed to have been the driver of the vehicle, died from severe burns.

Asha, a Jordanian neurologist who had been employed at Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge, was arrested on the M6 motorway later that day.

Laidlaw said that had the attacks been successful, they would have killed many people. He said it was extraordinary that both of the defendants were doctors.

The court heard that material found after the men's arrests showed they were Islamic extremists who saw their plot as revenge for Britain's perceived persecution of Muslims around the world, particularly in the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Laidlaw said: "Both men hold or adhere to extreme Islamic belief and both share - despite their professions and their obligations to save life and avert suffering - the same extreme religious and murderous ideology as has inspired other terrorists who have struck at or threatened this country in recent years."

The court heard that the attacks had been planned for six months, during which time the men had used a house on the outskirts of Glasgow as a bomb factory and had purchased large amounts of nails, fuel and gas canisters without attracting the attention of the intelligence services.

Laidlaw said that although Abdulla and Asha had used two mobile phones in each car and had made a series of calls to detonate the car bombs remotely, all attempts failed.

"The repeated attempts to detonate the two vehicles failed, but not through any lack of effort by the bombers. It was no more than good fortune that nobody died," he said.

The court heard that the men had at least two more vehicles and more supplies of gas, petrol and electronic detonators. Laidlaw said that although Abdulla would claim the bombings were intended to damage property and not to kill, their ultimate purpose was "to kill and maim".

Jurors heard that their failure to detonate their bombs led to a change in approach as the two men travelled to Glasgow overnight to carry out the airport attack, but the vehicle, which was driven at speed through the airport's main terminal doors, became stuck in the entrance.

During the trial, jurors will be shown CCTV footage of the attack on Glasgow airport.

Both men deny charges of conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause explosions likely to endanger life between January 2006 and July 2007.

    Glasgow airport car bombers plotted reign of fear, trial hears, G, 9.10.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/oct/09/glasgowairporttrial






De Menezes inquest:

anti-terror chief tells

of 'unprecedented' pressure after 7/7

Peter Clarke says fear of more attacks
led to 'lockdown' of potential targets
including parliament and Buckingham Palace


Monday September 29 2008
16:22 BST
Angela Balakrishnan and agencies


The Metropolitan police officer who ordered the surveillance operation that ended with the death of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 today spoke of the "unprecedented" pressure on the force after the July 7 London bombings and the failed attacks a fortnight later.

Giving evidence at the De Menezes inquest, Peter Clarke said he was away from the capital at the time the Brazilian was shot dead by anti-terror police at Stockwell tube station in south London. He said he had been supporting his wife, who had been deeply affected after their teenage son narrowly escaped the 7/7 explosions.

Clarke, who retired this year after heading the counter-terrorism unit at Scotland Yard, was questioned about the decision to "lock down" potential terrorist landmarks on July 12, one day after the discovery of the terrorists' bomb factory in Leeds and their abandoned car at Luton railway station.

The fear of further attacks was so great that Buckingham Palace, the houses of parliament and New Scotland Yard were all completely locked down at one point, Clarke said. No one was allowed to leave any of the buildings for an hour and a half on July 12.

Richard Horwell QC, for the commissioner of the Met police, said: "That meant that no one could enter New Scotland Yard or parliament and no one could leave."

Clarke replied: "That's absolutely right. In fact it included Buckingham Palace as well. It was completely unprecedented, as was some of the decision-making having to be made at that time about whether to warn the public about the possibility of a suicide bomber being on the loose or not.

"I remember those as being some of the most difficult decisions that one had ever confronted. If we warned the public, we could cause unnecessary panic. If we didn't and something terrible happened, the obvious question is: why didn't you warn the public? That is the sort of pressure we were working under day in, day out. July 12 is but one example."

The former anti-terror chief said there was a "strange atmosphere" during the period after the two sets of attacks.

"Like most of my colleagues, I didn't go home very much in that period after July 7, and one could sense it in the evenings walking around or going out. There was a sense in the air that this has happened, could it happen again, is it likely to happen again?"

He explained that his wife had been very anxious after the first bomb attacks and suffered delayed shock. Clarke's 16-year-old son had been passing through King's Cross station in London bound for Cambridge on the morning of July 7. He arrived moments after Germaine Lindsay blew himself up on a Piccadilly Line train that had just left King's Cross. The teenager telephoned his father to say he could not get into the station and had seen smoke and people running around.

Clarke said: "I hadn't heard by that stage - it was just before 9am - that this was a terrorist attack but from what he was telling me, I had my suspicions about what it could be. So I gave him the instructions to get away from there as quickly as possible. And in fact we, my wife and I, then told him to get on a bus to get away."

Less than an hour later, Hasib Hussain set off a bomb on a number 30 bus in Tavistock Square, near King's Cross. Clarke said he and his wife were unable to contact their son for some time after this.

"For me, I was in the centre of things so perhaps it wasn't so difficult. But for my wife it was extraordinarily difficult. Our holiday had been due to begin a day or two after that. I told my family to go on holiday and obviously I wouldn't be able to join them."

Clarke eventually joined his family on the morning of July 21 2005, ahead of the second, failed series of attacks. He flew back to London the next day after learning of De Menezes's death.

De Menezes, 27, was shot dead on July 22 2005 by firearms police when he was mistaken for the failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman.

Michael Mansfield QC, for the De Menezes family, responded to Clarke's description of the strained atmosphere in London by pointing out that the capital experienced simultaneous multiple bombings during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Clarke said there was the danger of "comparing chalk and cheese". "That Irish terrorist campaign was of an entirely different nature to the campaign that we have been facing in this country for the past six or seven years," he said. "There are some fundamental differences, which demand different responses, different structures and a different mindset to the prevention and detection of the attacks.

"The threat that we have seen from the Islamist groupings is global in its origins and every investigation seems to take us across the world. We have seen the use of suicide as a regular feature both here and overseas. There have been no warnings given and there has been no determination or will to restrict casualties.

"On the contrary, in investigation after investigation we have seen that the ambition of the terrorists is simply to kill as many people as possible."

Clarke described the tactics adopted by the Met to tackle on-the-run suicide bombers after Spanish police officers were killed while trying to arrest those responsible for the 2004 Madrid bombings. Patrolling police were warned to look out for people sweating, mumbling or praying and wearing bulky clothes not suitable for the weather.

"Recent experience, not only with Madrid but also with the Netherlands in October 2003, shows us that the current groupings of terrorists when cornered tend to either fight back or to kill themselves and try to kill others in the process," Clarke told the inquest.

A senior Scotland Yard firearms adviser, named only as Andrew, told the sixth day of the 12-week inquest that the two officers who fired the fatal shots at De Menezes were not "gung-ho". He said there was a "considerable culture of constraint" among the teams of highly trained marksmen. He had never fired at anyone in his long career as a firearms specialist.

Ian Stern QC, representing the police who shot De Menezes, told the inquest CO19 specialist firearms officers were deployed between 600 and 1,000 times a year. Between 2001 and 2005, there were only five operations in which shots were fired, causing a total of four deaths, he said.

The hearing continues.

    De Menezes inquest: anti-terror chief tells of 'unprecedented' pressure after 7/7, G, 29.9.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/sep/29/london






Schoolboy Islamist jailed for two years

Hammaad Munshi was 15 when he was recruited into an international group plotting to kill non-believers


Friday September 19 2008
12:01 BST
Rachel Stevenson and agencies
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Friday September 19 2008.
It was last updated at 12:49 on September 19 2008.


A British schoolboy has been jailed for two years after being found guilty of compiling information likely to be useful in terrorism.

Hammaad Munshi was just 15 when he was recruited into an international group plotting to kill "kuffar" or non-believers.

Blackfriars crown court in London heard how the grandson of a leading Islamic scholar, now 18, downloaded files about making napalm, detonators and grenades.

Sentencing him at the Old Bailey today to two years in a young offenders' institution, Judge Timothy Pontius said that he "fell under the spell of fanatical extremists". He added: "There is no doubt that you knew what you were doing."

During his trial, the court heard how al-Qaida propaganda material was stored on his PC and notes on martyrdom hidden under his bed.

Munshi, who is the grandson of Sheikh Yakub Munshi, president of the Islamic Research Institute of Great Britain, ran a website selling hunting knives and Islamic flags. He had the online profile "fidadee", meaning a "person ready to sacrifice themself".

He was arrested on his way home from school one day and was found carrying ball-bearings, often used as shrapnel in suicide bombs, in his pockets.

The judge said the nature of the material Munshi downloaded, including a document called How to Make Napalm, made it a "particularly serious offence".

He told Munshi: "You have brought very great shame upon yourself, your family and your religion.

"However, in the light of the evidence, I have no doubt at all that you, amongst other of similar immaturity and vulnerability, fell under the spell of fanatical extremists. They took advantage of your youthful naivety in order to indoctrinate you with pernicious and warped ideas masquerading as altruistic religious zeal."

The judge said he had taken Munshi's age into account, but added: "It is plainly a case where deterrence must be in the forefront of the court's mind."

Harendra de Silva QC, Munshi's lawyer, said the schoolboy had been subjected to "grooming and manipulation" by others who were "more criminally inclined".

He said Munshi's relatives were "devastated" by what had happened "not least because of the shame that it has brought upon this very upstanding family".

Munshi's mentor Aabid Khan, described as a "Mr Fixit" of the terrorist world who had links to a number of proscribed organisations, was arrested in June 2006 at Manchester airport on his way back from Pakistan.

He was found carrying articles promoting terrorism, as well as the personal information and addresses of 15 members of the royal family, among them the Queen and the Prince of Wales.

Khan, 23, of Bradford, West Yorkshire, was jailed for 12 years after being convicted last month of three counts of possessing articles for terrorism.

Munshi's cousin, Sultan Muhammad, also from Bradford, was found guilty of three similar charges and one of compiling information for terror. He was jailed for 10 years.

Shahid Malik, Munshi's local MP, said the case was a "wake-up call" to parents and urged mosques to take further action to combat extremism.

Malik, who wrote a letter to the court on behalf of the teenager's family, said they had been left "shocked and bewildered" by what had happened.

He said Munshi's grandfather was a respected religious leader committed to "rooting out" terrorism, and had supported the police investigation.

    Schoolboy Islamist jailed for two years, G, 19.9.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/sep/19/uksecurity.ukcrime






Liquid bomb plot:

three guilty of murder conspiracy

· Cell made al-Qaida style suicide videos
· But jury fails to reach verdict on airline charge
· Calls for airport security to be relaxed


Tuesday September 9 2008
The Guardian
Vikram Dodd
This article appeared in the Guardian on Tuesday September 09 2008 on p1 of the Top stories section.
It was last updated at 01:04 on September 09 2008.


Three men were yesterday convicted of conspiring to commit mass murder through suicide bomb explosions, but a jury failed to reach a verdict on the allegation they were part of the biggest terrorist plot since the September 11 attacks.

The Crown had alleged that eight Britons planned to blow up at least seven airliners heading to North America with 1,500 people aboard, in attacks that would have had a global impact.

But yesterday a jury at Woolwich crown court failed to convict any of the defendants of conspiring to murder people by blowing up aircraft. After 56 hours of deliberations the jurors were hung on the central charge.

By majority verdicts, the jury convicted the three men of conspiracy to commit murder. They were the cell's ringleader, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, the bombmaker Assad Sarwar, and Tanvir Hussain.

They had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cause explosions.

One defendant, Mohammed Gulzar, whom the Crown alleged flew into Britain from Pakistan to oversee the plot, was acquitted of all charges.

The jury failed to reach verdicts on four other defendants, who had earlier admitted conspiracy to cause a public nuisance by making al-Qaida style suicide videos.

The alleged airline plot was disrupted in August 2006 when the men were arrested. The discovery of the cell and what counter-terrorism officials say was an al-Qaida inspired suicide mission led to weeks of chaos at airports in Britain and the US.

The restrictions on liquids travellers can take in their hand luggage as a result of the allegations remain in force today. The additional security measures brought in since the arrests continue to cause disruption and delays at the UK's busiest airports.

Last night the government was under pressure from the airlines and Britain's largest airport owner to review its airport security regime in the light of the verdicts. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic and BAA said the government should consider lifting the ban on carrying large amounts of liquids in hand luggage.

Ali, Sarwar and Hussain will be sentenced on October 3, and the Crown Prosecution Service has until late this month to decide what it will do over the charges on which the jury failed to reach a verdicts.

The eight men - seven from London and one from High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire - had denied the charges.

The Crown said the men planned to smuggle the parts of a liquid bomb on to passenger planes. These liquid components would be disguised in soft drinks bottles to bypass airport security. Once on board, the devices would be assembled.

Tests by government scientists, played to the jury, produced videos of the devices producing an explosion powerful enough to punch a hole in an aircraft fuselage.

The Crown believed it had overwhelming evidence. Six of the men recorded suicide videos making threats against the west, which the prosecution said would have been released after the planes were blown up in mid-air.

The security service MI5 had captured incriminating statements with covert listening and video devices planted in the east London flat which the cell used as a bomb factory.

US and UK intelligence believe the cell was directed by al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan.

Liquid explosives were to have been hidden in Lucozade and other soft drinks bottles. Disposable cameras would have been used to help set off the devices which would also contain regular batteries, hollowed out to contain chemicals.

In their defence, Ali and Sarwar said they planned to record a documentary highlighting injustices against Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

Ali said he considered exploding a small device at the Houses of Parliament or Heathrow's terminal three as a publicity stunt to draw attention to the programme.

He claimed martyrdom videos recorded by six of the defendants were a hoax to be used as part of the internet documentary to make it more shocking.

In April while opening its case, the Crown played videos of Ali found after his arrest. In it he warned of "body parts ... decorating the streets" if Muslims were not left alone, and said he had yearned to take part in violent jihad since he was a teenager. In the martyrdom video he is seen speaking against the backdrop of a black flag with Arabic writing on it. Last night the CPS said: "The prosecution is considering the request for a retrial in respect of the plot to blow up airliners against all seven men upon which the jury could not agree."

The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said: "I am indebted to the police and security services who, by successfully disrupting this group, have saved countless lives. I would also thank the Crown Prosecution Service, which has worked tirelessly to ensure that these individuals have been brought to justice. I am sure they will now consider what to do where no verdict was reached."

The trial judge, David Calvert-Smith, excused the jurors from any further service for the rest of their lives and offered his appreciation. "Depart this court with the full-hearted thanks of the community for your service to it, which is far beyond the duty for most jurors, and my personal thanks," he told them.

    Liquid bomb plot: three guilty of murder conspiracy, G, 9.9.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/sep/09/3






No One Convicted of Terror Plot

to Bomb Planes


September 9, 2008
The Nerw York Times


LONDON — A lengthy trial centering on what Scotland Yard called a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners ended Monday when the jury convicted three of eight defendants of conspiracy to commit murder.

But the jury failed to reach verdicts on the more serious charge of a conspiracy to have suicide bombers detonate soft-drink bottles filled with liquid explosives aboard seven airliners headed for the United States and Canada.

The failure to obtain convictions on the plane-bombing charge was a blow to counterterrorism officials in London and Washington, who had described the scheme as potentially the most devastating act of terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks seven years ago this week. British and American experts had said that the plot had all the signs of an operation by Al Qaeda, and that it was conceived and organized in Pakistan.

The arrest in August 2006 of two dozen suspects, including the eight put on trial, set off a worldwide alarm in the airline industry and led to a tightening of airport security, including time-consuming restrictions on passengers carrying liquids and creams in their carry-on luggage that remain in force at most airports around the globe.

But the case was hampered from the beginning, prosecutors said, by an investigation that was cut short, by the conflicting demands of intelligence agencies, and by problems with introducing evidence in the courtroom. To protect sources and methods, the prosecution was unable to introduce material from British or foreign intelligence agencies. In addition, Britain does not allow information in court that has been gathered from domestic wiretaps.

The arrest in Pakistan of Rashid Rauf, a Briton of Pakistani descent who American, British and Pakistani officials said was a liaison to Al Qaeda, set off a series of events that led the British police to roll up the London-based cell far earlier than they had intended. The haste in making sweeping arrests made it hard for prosecutors to persuade the jury that the bomb plot had reached the stage at which an attack on airliners was imminent.

Partly as a result, prosecutors never convinced the jury that the suspects were prepared to strike immediately, or even that they had chosen planes as their targets. Nor did they convict a man whom they had accused of having links to Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said it might decide to call for a retrial of the case if it decides it might win convictions on the most serious charges. A decision on that is expected within weeks. In addition, a number of other suspects will face trial related to the plot.

The British government, keenly disappointed, put a positive gloss on the trial’s outcome. “I am indebted to the police and the security services, who, by successfully disrupting this group, have saved countless lives,” Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who is responsible for internal security, said in a statement.

The trial was one of the most protracted and complex ever held for a terrorism case in Britain, after what Scotland Yard described as one of the largest-scale criminal investigations ever mounted here.

After three months of evidence, the case against the eight men — all British Muslims aged 24 to 30, and six with family roots in Pakistan — went to the jury in late July. A two-week holiday break ordered by the judge was followed by what appeared to have been an impasse of more than three weeks among jurors on the most serious charges, even after the judge, David Calvert-Smith, allowed the jury to reach verdicts with at least 10 of the 12 jurors in agreement.

By exactly that margin, the jurors on Monday returned guilty verdicts on the murder conspiracy charges against three men who prosecutors said had been at the heart of the plot: Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, a husband and father who studied computer systems engineering; Assad Sarwar, 28, a college dropout who learned how to make the liquid hydrogen peroxide bomb in Pakistan; and Tanvir Hussain, 27, who helped in the purchase of materials and in making the suicide videos.

The defendants planned to drain 17-ounce plastic sports drink bottles by puncturing a tiny hole in the bottom, prosecutors said, then refilling the bottles with an explosive mix of concentrated hydrogen peroxide and food coloring to give the appearance of the original beverage.

The prosecution said the bottles were to have been resealed with instant glue, and then, once the bombers were aboard the flights, connected with detonators made of AA batteries filled with the explosive HMTD and disposable cameras acting as triggers. Scotland Yard said at the time of the arrests that it had found plastic drink bottles and large quantities of hydrogen peroxide on premises used by the defendants, along with “martyrdom” videos taped by six defendants, in the manner common among Islamic suicide bombers.

Also found was a computer memory stick belonging to Mr. Ali, who described himself as the ringleader of the plot, that had files with highlighted schedules for seven flights to New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Montreal and Toronto between July and October 2006 aboard aircraft operated by United Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada. The computer files included information on baggage rules, guidance as to what could be carried as hand luggage and information about Heathrow Airport in London, Scotland Yard said.

But the jury failed to reach verdicts against seven of the eight men on the most serious charge, that of conspiring “to murder persons unknown by the detonation of improvised explosive devices on board trans-Atlantic passenger aircraft.” By finding three of the men guilty of plotting murder, but not of an airliner bombing conspiracy, the jury appeared to have concluded that they had the means and the intention of detonating bombs, but that the prosecution had failed to prove conclusively that they had planned to attack airliners.

Similarly, it failed to reach any decision on murder conspiracy charges against four other men described by prosecutors as foot soldiers in the plot: Ibrahim Savant, 27, a convert to Islam with Anglo-Indian roots, who worked in his British mother’s bookkeeping business; Umar Islam, 30, a convert and former Rastafarian of Caribbean origin; Arafat Waheed Khan, 27, a newly engaged former cellphone shop employee; and Waheed Zaman, 24, a former biomedical college student who once led his university’s Islamic organization.

Seven of the eight defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to create a public nuisance with their plan to produce and distribute the videos, and face long prison sentences.

British officials said a crucial role in the suspected plot was played by Mohammed Gulzar, 26, who declared his innocence throughout, and was the only defendant to be acquitted of all charges on Monday.

British intelligence and law enforcement officials say they believe that Mr. Gulzar was the facilitator between the plotters in London and Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, and pushed his co-conspirators to move forward more quickly with the attack.

The law enforcement officials said Mr. Gulzar was a close friend of Mr. Rauf, who is believed to have been the main figure at the Pakistan end of the plot, according to British, American and Pakistani officials.

The officials said Mr. Rauf and Mr. Gulzar fled Britain for Pakistan after the murder of Mr. Rauf’s uncle in Birmingham in April 2002. But Mr. Rauf was arrested in Pakistan in August 2006, forcing the hand of the police in Britain and, in the end, weakening the prosecutors’ case. (Mr. Rauf escaped from the Pakistani police last December.)

Among other things, they failed to show that the defendants were prepared to strike immediately. There were doubts about whether they had the technical skills needed, including the ability to produce the concentrated version of hydrogen peroxide necessary to make the bombs effective, and to assemble them aboard aircraft in midflight.

The defense denied the men had chosen airplanes as their targets. No airline tickets had been bought. Some of the six who were accused of being suicide bombers had not obtained the “clean” passports, free of suspicious foreign stamps from Pakistan and elsewhere, that the prosecution said had been part of the planning for the attacks. Some of the suicide videos appeared amateurish, and no evidence was presented to support claims of a link to Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

At the trial, Mr. Ali said the plan had been to stir public alarm by setting off minor blasts at the check-in areas of Heathrow’s Terminal 3 to protest British and American policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East. He said that their original target was the British Parliament, but that they had shifted to Heathrow after security at Westminster proved too tight.

John F. Burns reported from London, and Elaine Sciolino from Paris.

    No One Convicted of Terror Plot to Bomb Planes, NYT, 9.9.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/09/world/europe/09london.html?hp






7/7 bombing retrial likely

after jury discharged

· No verdict reached after 15 days of deliberation
·Three accused of helping bombers pick targets


Saturday August 2 2008
The Guardian
Rachel Williams


A jury trying three men accused of helping the July 7 bombers was dismissed yesterday after failing to reach a verdict after nearly three weeks of deliberations.

Waheed Ali, 25, Sadeer Saleem, 28, and Mohammed Shakil, 32 - the first and only people to be tried in connection with the explosions on London's transport network that killed 52 people in 2005 - are likely to face a retrial over the allegation that they undertook a "hostile reconnaissance mission" in the capital to explore potential targets seven months earlier.

It is claimed they were joined by the eventual suicide bombers, Hasib Hussain and Jermaine Lindsay, on the two-day trip in December 2004, during which they went to the London Eye, the Natural History Museum and the London Aquarium, and, the prosecution claimed, visited areas which bore a "striking similarity" to those where the bombs would be detonated the next year.

Mohammed Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Hussain and Lindsay injured nearly a 1,000 people when they exploded devices they carried in rucksacks on to three underground trains and a bus near King's Cross, north London.

It was alleged during the three-month trial that the defendants' trip was "an essential preparatory step in the plan to bring death and destruction to the heart of the UK". But the trio, who admitted they knew the bombers from attending the same mosques and gyms as they grew up in the tight-knit Asian community of Beeston, Leeds, insisted their outing was an innocent "social outing" planned so Ali could visit his sister and offering the others the opportunity for some sightseeing.

The jury at Kingston crown court were in their 15th day of deliberations when they sent a note to the judge saying they were deadlocked. Mr Justice Gross had told them on Monday that he would accept a majority verdict.

The men, who deny conspiracy to cause explosions, were remanded in custody. Paul Taylor, prosecuting, said that the Crown would take "a little time" to consider if it would seek a retrial.

During the trial the defendants, who admitted undertaking jihadi training in Pakistan, made no secret of their support for the defence of Muslim lands. But they denounced suicide bombings as un-Islamic and denied any knowledge of the July 7 plot. The men said they never went on the underground and had driven around London, frequently getting lost. Ali argued that if the group had been scouting for targets they would not have used their own mobile phones and car.

The court was told that Shakil drove Ali, Saleem and Hussain from Leeds to London on the morning of December 16. The men said Ali visited his sister in the East End while the others went to the Natural History Museum. The group met Lindsay in the evening and they stayed overnight in a hostel. Linsday left the next morning, leaving the remaining men to go on the Eye and to the Aquarium before heading home via Birmingham in the afternoon.

A hat carrying traces of Ali's DNA and an asthma inhaler and a pair of bloodstained martial arts trousers with Saleem's DNA on them were found at the main bomb factory in Alexandra Grove, Leeds, along with a key for Shakil's Mitsubishi car.

Ali's fingerprint was on a chest of drawers at a bedsit used by the bombers in Chapeltown Road.

Saleem told the court Khan, also an asthmatic, had borrowed his inhaler and trousers and had forgotten to return them. Ali insisted Tanweer had borrowed his hat months before the attacks and Shakil told how Hussain had a spare key to his car.

The trio's links with the bombers went back years. Shakil had known Khan since they were both taken on as youth workers in the basement of Beeston's Hardy Street mosque in 1996. A 14-year-old Saleem had first come across Khan at a youth club. Ali and Tanweer were childhood best friends who played cricket together the night before the attacks. Ali, Saleem, Khan and Tanweer would all become trustees at the nearby Iqra Islamic bookshop.

Ali admitted attending a training camp in the Kashmiri mountains with Khan in the summer of 2001 and in 2003 Shakil trained alongside Khan in Pakistan, using light machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and AK-47 assault rifles.

The jury also saw footage of Ali with Khan and Tanweer meeting a "committed terrorist" known as Ausman early in 2004. On Boxing Day that year, after the trip to London, Ali and Saleem flew to Pakistan to attend a training camp. They met up with Khan and Tanweer and said they were told the two men would be returning to the UK to do "a couple of things for the brothers". But they claimed they had no idea what Khan and the gang were planning.

Survivors and relatives of those killed said they feared inquests would be delayed. A report by the Intelligence and Security Committee due to be published next month may also be held up.

7/7 bombing retrial likely after jury discharged, G, 2.8.2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/aug/02/july7.uksecurity




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