LONDON (Reuters) - Three British Islamists were found guilty on Thursday of plotting a campaign of bombings in crowded areas in an attempt to create what one of them called “another 9/11”.
A jury at Woolwich Crown Court in south London convicted Irfan Naseer, 31, Irfan Khalid, 27, and Ashik Ali, 27, of a total of 12 counts of committing acts in preparation for a terrorist attack between December 2010 and September 2011.
The trio were central figures in a plot to blow up eight rucksack bombs in a mass suicide attack as well as detonating bombs on timers in crowded places. Their targets remain unidentified.
The court heard they had also considered welding knife blades to a truck and ramming it into a crowd of people.
“The evidence we put to the court showed the defendants discussing with awe and admiration the attacks of 9/11 and 7/7,” said specialist counter-terrorism prosecutor Karen Jones in a statement after the verdict.
The name “7/7” is given in Britain to the attacks on London’s public transport by Islamist militants on July 7, 2005, which killed more than 50 people.
“These terrorists wanted to do something bigger, speaking of how 7/7 had ‘gone a bit wrong’,” Jones said in her statement.
The men will be sentenced at a later date. Judge Richard Henriques warned them to expect sentences of life in prison, the Press Association (PA) reported from court.
“You were seeking to recruit a team of somewhere between six and eight suicide bombers to carry out a spectacular bombing campaign, one which would create an anniversary along the lines of 7/7 or 9/11,” the PA quoted Henriques as telling Naseer.
Prosecutor Brian Altman had described the men to the jury as “jihadists and extremists” who were influenced by a preacher affiliated to al Qaeda. The court heard that Khalid had spoken of causing “another 9/11” as “revenge for everything”.
Naseer and Khalid had spent time at training camps in Pakistan where they had learnt how to make bombs, mix poisons and fire guns. Altman told the court they had prepared “martyrdom videos” in anticipation of their suicide campaign.
All three had posed as street collectors for the charity organisation Muslim Aid, fraudulently raising 13,500 pounds ($20,700) of which only 1,500 pounds went to the group.
They asked an associate, Rahin Ahmed, to invest the rest of the money in the currency markets to raise funds for their bomb plot, but started doubting Ahmed’s trading abilities after he lost more than 9,000 pounds, blaming “troubles in Europe”.
“We would like to reassure the public that we have taken steps to improve the security of our street collections and branded property,” Muslim Aid said in a statement after the verdict.
“We would like to reiterate that Muslim Aid is a victim of this fraudulent activity,” the group said.
Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Andrew Roche