Five men found guilty in British terror bombing plot
Five British men with links to Al Qaeda have been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of conspiring to launch a series of bomb attacks in Britain.
CNN reports that the men planned to launch a bombing campaign in Britain using 1,300 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer they acquired, but they were arrested in 2004 before their plans could be carried out.
Omar Khyam, Waheed Mahmood, Anthony Garcia, Jawad Akbar and Salahuddin Amin were convicted of conspiring with Canadian Mohammed Momin Khawaja to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.
Garcia and Khyam were found guilty of possessing an article for terrorism – the fertilizer, and Khyam was also convicted of having aluminum powder – an ingredient in explosives.
The men denied all charges.
In sentencing the five to life, Judge Michael Astill told them they "might never be released" as they were "considered cruel, ruthless misfits by society."
The Times of London writes that the key witness for the prosecution was Pakistani-American Mohammed Babar, who was arrested in the United States and confessed to helping the men acquire materials for the bombs.
The prosecution said the men had discussed targets including London's biggest nightclub - the Ministry of Sound - gas, water and electricity supplies, synagogues, trains, planes, and the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent.
Babar said some of the suspects had also suggested poisoning fast food takeaways and beer at soccer matches.
The men were arrested in March 2004 following a lengthy police surveillance codenamed Operation Crevice, which led to the discovery of the half-tonne of chemical fertiliser in storage in West London.
The BBC offers a narrative timeline of the events that led up to the men's conviction, noting that four of the five men were of Pakistani descent, and they had a particular interest in the conflict between Pakistan and India over the disputed Kashmir region, which is predominently Muslim. After traveling to Pakistan to aid jihadists there, they decided to attack Britain in revenge for its involvement in the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of the men received military training in Pakistan in July 2003.
The Daily Telegraph reports that with the men's conviction, it was revealed to the public for the first time that Omar Khyam – who the Telegraph notes had "boasted of working for the number three in al Qaeda" – had met with Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, two of the men involved in the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings in London that killed 52 people.
The judge, Sir Michael Astill, said the Old Bailey jury had not been told of the connection as it would be too prejudicial for the fertiliser bomb plot accused to be linked to the men who caused carnage in London.
Bloomberg reports that police monitored meetings between Mr. Khyam, Mr. Khan, and Mr. Tanweer as early as February 2004. Police have previously said "they believed Khan and Tanweer were focused on financial crime, to raise money for jihadi causes, and didn't pose an immediate threat." The revelation of the ties between the London bombers and Khyam's group prompted calls by the opposition Conservative party for a complete investigation of the British government's response to the July 7 bombings.
"Deliberately or not, the government have not told the British public the whole truth about the circumstances and mistakes leading up to the July 7 attacks," David Davis, the home affairs spokesman for the main opposition Conservative party, said in an e-mailed statement. "As a result, after nearly two years and five government reports, we still don't know the truth."
Bloomberg adds that John Reid, the British home secretary, declined to discuss the connection between the five convicted men and the July 7 bombers, and said that the government will respond to questions on the topic later.