LONDON (Reuters) - Police investigating a car bomb, packed with petrol, gas cylinders and nails, found in London on Friday said the incident echoed the “Gas Limos Project”, a major al Qaeda plot foiled in 2004.
Convicted Islamist militant Dhiren Barot, who was jailed last year, admitted he had been planning to explode gas and explosives packed into limousines or other large vehicles in underground car parks in co-ordinated attacks across Britain.
Details of the plan, known as the “Gas Limos Project”, were found on a laptop computer during a search in Pakistan, and were thought by police to have been compiled to present to senior al Qaeda leaders for a proposed attack.
Peter Clarke, head of London’s Counter Terrorism Command, agreed there were some apparent similarities between Barot’s scheme and the gas-fuelled car bomb defused on Friday.
“In the Barot case, sometimes referred to as Operation Rhyme, we saw reference to vehicles being filled with gas or fuel in order to create an explosion,” Clarke told a news conference.
“So obviously we are aware of that but at this stage it’s far too soon to draw any conclusions.”
Details on the computer outlined exactly how such an attack would be carried out and estimated there would be “hundreds” of casualties. The project had even been costed at 60,000 pounds.
“Since in much of the Western world it is not always possible/feasible to obtain real destructive ingredients e.g. common explosives, from the very beginning the project was based on being an improvised destructive device, hence the choice of gas,” the plan said.
It said a study of gases had been carried out and that propane, acetylene, butane, and oxygen were the most effective.
The plan also suggested that cylinders would be more effective than gas taken from factories or tankers as they can be obtained easily and legally.
The project also cited fire as an important factor.
“Perhaps the best example of how a building can be totally gutted by an inferno (blaze) and more was that of the WTC (World Trade Center),” the project said, referring to the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Petrol cans were considered a good option for this.
“Additionally, the cans can be filled with sharp metal nails etc in order to further maximise the damage caused,” the plans said.
Barot, a senior member of al Qaeda who also admitted plotting to attack the New York Stock Exchange and other U.S. financial institutions, is serving a 30-year jail term in a British prison.