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THREE Islamic extremists were convicted yesterday of a suicide bomb plot to blow up transatlantic airliners in a bid to kill thousands.
The al-Qaida-inspired terror cell planned to detonate homemade liquid bombs onboard flights bound for major north American cities.
Abdulla Ahmed Ali, Assad Sarwar and Tanvir Hussain were found guilty of conspiracy to murder by detonating the bombs on airliners following the largest ever counter-terrorism operation in Britain.
Sue Hemming, head of the Crown Prosecution Service Counter Terrorism Division, said: “These men wanted to bring down several aircraft in a short space of time, indiscriminately killing hundreds of innocent people – perhaps more if they had succeeded in activating their devices while over cities.
“This was a calculated and sophisticated plot to create a terrorist event of global proportions and the jury concluded that Ali, Sarwar and Hussain knew what the target was.”
British Home Secretary Alan Johnson said: “I am pleased that the jury has recognised that there was a plot to bomb transatlantic flights and that three people have been convicted of that plot.
“This case reaffirms that we face a real and serious threat from terrorism.”
Counter-terrorist police and the security services spent more than £35 million (€39m) foiling the plot and bringing Ali and the others to justice.
The arrest of the gang in August 2006 sparked tight restrictions on carrying liquids on to aircraft which initially caused travel chaos.
Yesterday’s guilty verdicts will come as a relief to Government ministers who endured heavy criticism for introducing the draconian luggage restrictions.
Jurors deliberated for more than 50 hours at the end of a six-month trial at Woolwich Crown Court.
It will also be seen as a vindication of the decision to retry Ali after he was found guilty of conspiracy to murder last September. The previous jury failed to reach verdicts on the airline plot. British-born Ali, 28, of Walthamstow, east London, was inspired by the July 7 bombers and Osama bin Laden and considered taking his baby son on his suicide mission.
He planned to smuggle homemade bombs disguised as soft drinks on to passenger jets run by United Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada.
The hydrogen peroxide devices would have been assembled and detonated in mid-air by a team of suicide bombers.
Ali singled out seven flights to San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Washington, New York and Chicago that departed within two-and-a-half hours of each other.
Police said the plot was drawn up in Pakistan with detailed instructions passed to Ali during frequent trips to its lawless border with Afghanistan.
They believe a mystery al-Qaida bombmaker was responsible for the ingenious liquid bomb design, concealed within 500ml Oasis or Lucozade bottles.
Surveillance teams watched Ali on his return to Britain as he assembled his terror cell, gathered materials and identified targets.
Undercover officers looked on as he used cash to purchase a £138,000 flat in Forest Road, Walthamstow.
They planted a secret bug that revealed it had been converted into a bomb factory where Ali met others to construct the bombs.
The flat was also used as a location for Ali and others to record suicide videos threatening further attacks against the West.
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