Three would-be suicide attackers convicted over bomb plot in Britain

Three face life in prison after being arrested at council flat doubling as makeshift bomb factory

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 February, 2013, 4:48am

Three would-be suicide bombers have been convicted of terror plots in Britain that would have been more deadly than the attack on London's transport system in July 2005.

The men were key figures in a Birmingham-based terror cell that planned to detonate eight to 10 suicide bombs and timed explosive devices, which prosecutors said could have caused "death and injury on a massive scale". They are among a number of extremists in Britain radicalised by the magazine Inspire, a self-help guide produced by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula that is pushed on internet forums to would-be terrorists.

The men were key figures in a Birmingham-based terror cell that planned to detonate eight to 10 suicide bombs and timed explosive devices

The three duped members of the public into donating thousands of pounds to fund their terror plot by posing as collectors for the charity Muslim Aid in Sparkhill, Birmingham. Within two weeks they were able to raise £14,500 (HK$172,762), which they diverted to fund their activities.

Mr Justice Richard Henriques told the men that it was clear they were planning to carry out a spectacular bombing campaign, and they would all face life in prison when they are sentenced in April or May.

The ringleaders - chemistry graduate Irfan Naseer, 31, and Irfan Khalid, 27, both from Sparkhill - had travelled to Pakistan twice for training. On the second occasion, they spent two months at an al-Qaeda training facility in Miran Shah, in the northwestern region of Waziristan, where they had to flee from US drone strikes.

When the pair returned to Britain in the summer of 2011, they shared their knowledge with Ashik Ali, 27, from the Balsall Heath area of Birmingham. He rented a public-housing flat that became a makeshift bomb factory and the hub of the terror plot.

In the flat, the three men experimented with making bombs using ammonium nitrate extracted from sports injury cold packs, through a recipe that experts told the court could have created a viable device.

The trio recruited others to their cause and sent four young men from Sparkhill to Pakistan for training in 2011. But they were being watched by the police and security services, who overheard them describe the plan as "another 9/11". Officers moved in to arrest the men after they overheard them attempting to make a bomb in the council flat.

The trio were heavily influenced by Anwar al-Awlaqi, the Yemen-based cleric who was a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula until he was killed by a US drone in September 2011. He spread his extremist message through the English-language Inspire magazine, which contained bomb-making recipes.

One of the plans discussed by the three - of attaching blades to the wheels of cars to mow down pedestrians - came directly from Inspire, the second edition of which describes how to create "the ultimate mowing machine".

The three men denied all the charges against them.