Islamic suicide terror plotters in Woolwich crown court.
Bomb Attacks on nuclear power stations, oil and gas terminals, Canary Wharf and Heathrow’s control tower were also being considered by leaders of the plot to blow up seven transatlantic airliners in mid-flight, a court was told yesterday.
Documents found on computer memory sticks at the home of an alleged terrorist ringleader contained a list of targets across Britain – including the gas pipeline between Britain and Belgium.
The man, Assad Sarwar, was said to be in contact with terrorist leaders overseas and visited Pakistan a month before his arrest as preparations for the airline attacks were being finalised.
Peter Wright, QC, prosecuting, told the court that Mr Sarwar, who is on trial with seven other men accused of the airline plot, was not to have been a suicide bomber. “He was not about to travel on board any transatlantic aircraft with any improvised explosive device,” Mr Wright said.
'Air carnage planned in the name of Islam'
A jury at Woolwich Crown Court was told that the men arrested had been under surveillance for some weeks and appeared to be in the final stages of planning.
They had bought a flat for £138,000 cash in July 2006 on Forest Road, Walthamstow, northeast London, and transformed it into their “bomb factory”. The components of the airline bombs – disguised as 500ml soft drinks, batteries and disposable cameras – were to be assembled there.
But the plotters were unaware that the authorities had installed audio and video devices and were observing as they experimented with the devices.
Two defendants, Abdulla Ahmed Ali and Umar Islam, were allegedly heard discussing whether to take their wives and babies on the aircraft when they embarked on their missions. One is heard saying that the date of the attack was “in a couple of weeks”. The other replies: “We’ve got our virgins” – thought to be a reference to a martyr’s reward of virgin brides in paradise.
The arrests of the defendants and a large group of others began on August 9 2006, sparking a huge airport security alert, amid signs that the intended attack was close.
Three of the men who allegedly volunteered to be suicide bombers had fraudulently applied for replacement British passports, claiming that the original documents had been stolen.
Mr Wright said the new passports were needed to hide that they had travelled to Pakistan, a fact that might arouse suspicion if they tried to board a transatlantic flight. The jury was shown photographs which were said to show how one man “westernised” his appearance when he made a fast-track application for a replacement passport – cutting short his bushy hair and beard.
Mr Sarwar was, the court heard, the “custodian” of suicide videos made by six of his codefendants. They were found on cassettes in the boot of his car and hidden in the roof of his garage at High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. He was also responsible for acquiring large quantities of hydrogen peroxide needed to make the main charge for the liquid explosive bombs. He bought more than 40 litres of the liquid, which was to be distilled to a denser and more explosive concentration.
Searches found that Mr Sarwar had hidden quantities of the chemical and other bombmaking materials in a number of “hides” in King’s Wood and Fennell Wood, High Wycombe.
Airliners flying to San Francisco, New York, Washington, Chicago, Montreal and Toronto were to be attacked, the court has heard. All the flights were to leave Heathrow Terminal 3 over a 2hr 35min period on one afternoon.
But Mr Sarwar had also compiled another target list and carried out detailed research. A diagram of the lay-out of the giant Bacton gas terminal in Norfolk had been annotated and he also had plans of the Coryton oil refinery in Essex. Mr Sarwar made extensive inquiries about where to acquire hydrogen peroxide, which had been used in other incidents to manufacture explosives, the court heard.
In July 2006 he was caught on an automatic number plate recognition camera driving to South Wales, where he found a supplier of the chemical. He bought ten litres in one order, allegedly using the name Jona Lewis and claiming that he was from Bristol.
On another visit to South Wales, in April 2006, he was detected breaking the speed limit and issued with a fixed penalty notice, which he paid.
In a diary found in his possession he had made a list of explosive ingredients but also noted a series of addresses in the Pakistani cities of Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi. Mr Sarwar was also alleged to have used a code to list phone numbers of his contacts.
Mr Wright said: “Whilst his trip to Pakistan may have been connected with the plot to detonate bombs on transatlantic aircraft, his utility to a global campaign of terrorism was not confined to this ‘blessed operation’. The horizon in respect of Mr Sarwar’s terrorist ambition was limitless.”
The defendants are Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, of Walthamstow, London; Mr Sarwar, 27; Tanvir Hussain, 26, of Leyton, East London; Mohammed Gulzar, 27, of Barking, East London; Ibrahim Savant, 27, of Walthamstow; Arafat Khan, 26, of Walthamstow; Waheed Zaman, 23, of Walthamstow; and Umar Islam, 29, (aka Brian Young) of Plaistow, East London.
They all deny two charges of conspiracy to murder and conspiring to cause an explosion on an aircraft.
The trial continues.