April 10, 2008 / 10:58 AM / 12 years ago

Men "scouted targets" for 7/7 bombings

LONDON (Reuters) - Three men charged in connection with the July 7, 2005 London suicide bombings went on trial on Thursday, accused of scouting for potential targets in the capital.

(From left) Waheed Ali, Sadeer Saleem and Mohammed Shakil are seen in a combination photo. REUTERS/Metropolitan Police/Handout

Mohammed Shakil, 31, Sadeer Saleem, 27 and Waheed Ali, 24, were friends with the bombers and shared common beliefs, Kingston Crown Court in southwest London was told.

The bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Jermaine Lindsay and Hasib Hussain killed 52 people and wounded hundreds in co-ordinated morning rush hour attacks on three underground trains and a bus.

During a reconnaissance weekend seven months before the bombings, two of the accused visited the London Eye, the Natural History Museum and the London Aquarium, prosecutors alleged.

They said various types of evidence would help explain the group’s motivations including contacts with people convicted of terrorist activity; travelling to Pakistan and possessing radical ideological material.

The court heard the accused had extensive contact with the bombers, which had been uncovered through mobile records, fingerprints on documents, family videos and surveillance.

The ringleader of the bombers recorded a video for his young daughter when he left on a previous mission expecting to die, prosecutors said.

“Sweetheart, not long to go now. And I’m going to really, really miss you a lot,” Khan says to the camera while holding the little girl.

Khan then goes on to introduce his daughter’s “uncles” — two of the bombers and the defendant Waheed Ali.

Prosecutors say Kahn expected to die while fighting jihad in Afghanistan, but later changed his mind and opted to attack London.

Prosecutors say that between November 17, 2004 and July 8, 2005, Shakil, Saleem and Ali “unlawfully and maliciously” conspired with the four bombers and others unknown to cause explosions likely to endanger life or cause serious harm and injury.

The group, all from Beeston, Leeds, deny the single charge under the Explosive Substances Act 1883.

Dressed casually in open necked shirts, they sat in the dock, listening with arms crossed.

Prosecutor Neil Flewitt told the jury the group had developed violent thoughts against Britain.

9/11 PRAISE

When they were arrested, police uncovered material including praise for the September 11, 2001 U.S. attacks, letters revealing Jihad ambitions and Web sites supporting Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Two of the group, Shakil and Ali, also separately travelled to Pakistan with Khan, the court was told.

Flewitt said it was not the prosecution case they had been directly involved in the London bombings by either making or transporting the bombs.

“However,” he told the jury, “it is the prosecution case that the defendants associated with and shared the beliefs and objectives of the London bombers and so were willing to assist them in one particular and important aspect of their preparation for the London bombings.”

In December 2004 the group travelled to London where they spent two days scouting for targets.

The trip was an “essential preparatory step in the ... plan to bring death and destruction to the heart of the UK”, the court heard.

The men have denied the trip was suspicious.

Emergency services personnel work near the site of the wreckage of a bus after an explosion in Tavistock Square, July 7, 2005. The first three men to be charged in connection with the July 7, 2005 London suicide bombings appeared in court on Thursday, accused of scouting for targets. REUTERS/Johnathan Bainbridge

Instead they said it was to enable Ali to visit his sister in East London. Saleem and Shakil admitted they had visited the London Eye, the museum and the aquarium but only “for purely social reasons”.

The group, Flewitt said, admitted they knew the bombers but maintained their friendship was innocent and that they did not know about the plans to bomb the capital.

The trial, before Justice Peter Gross, continues.

Editing by Stephen Addison and Matthew Jones

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