|Three members of a Birmingham-based jihadi group (from left), Ashik Ali,
Irfan Khalid and Irfan Naseer, aimed to carry out spectacular attacks using
explosives, firearms and poisons to cause death and destruction. (Reuters)
Feb. 21: The ringleaders of an al Qaida-backed British jihadi group have been found guilty of plotting the worst terror attack on UK soil.
The Birmingham-based gang planned to use eight suicide bombers, armed with guns, to cause “mass death” and “carnage” on the streets of Britain. They planned to cause more damage than the 7/7 London bombings and wanted to carry out “another 9/11”.
Police believe had they been successful it would have been the largest terrorist atrocity on home soil.
Irfan Naseer, 31, Irfan Khalid, 27, and Ashik Ali, 27, were today found guilty of planning a terror campaign after a four and a half month trial at Woolwich Crown Court.
They were also guilty of raising money for terrorism and recruiting others for a terror act.
Six other men linked to the plot have already pleaded guilty to related terror offences. Naseer and Khalid were also convicted of travelling to Pakistan for terror training, where they made martyrdom videos to be released by al Qaida after they had blown themselves up.
In a first for the UK, Naseer, a pharmacy graduate, had planned to extract ammonium nitrate — used as the main explosive — from sports injury cold packs.
Although no target was agreed on, Ali told police they had planned to attack soldiers but they also talked hitting “crowded places” and turning a Birmingham street in to a “little war zone”. Detective inspector Adam Gough, of the West Midlands counter terrorism unit, said: “They were the real deal. They were committed, passionate extremists hell bent on pursuing their intention of killing as many people as they could in coordinated suicide bomb attacks.
“They not only had that intention, they also had the capability, capacity and determination to make it a reality.”
The men were secretly recorded by MI5 and police for two months in 2011 and were heard criticising the July 7 bombers, who killed 52 innocent people, for not doing “enough damage”. They also considered other forms of attack such as putting poison in hand cream to rub on car and door handles or even putting blades on the front of a vehicle and driving it in to a crowd of people.
The gang raised more than £20,000 by claiming to be collecting for Muslim Aid to fund their atrocity but lost large parts of it after investing it in the foreign exchange markets.
Rahin Ahmed, 28, the group’s chief fundraiser who lost the money, had already pleaded guilty to fundraising and helping others travel to Pakistan for terror training.
Four other men, Naweed Ali, 24; Ishaaq Hussain, 20; Khobaib Hussain, 20 and Shahid Khan, 20, have pleaded guilty to travelling to Pakistan in August, 2011, for terrorist training.
Mujahid Hussain, 21, who was heavily involved in raising money for terrorism, has pleaded guilty to a charge of fundraising.
Justice Henriques told the trio that they will all face life in prison when they are sentenced in April or May. Speaking to Naseer, he said he had been convicted on “overwhelming evidence” and that he will face “a very long minimum term”.
The judge said: “You are a highly skilled bomb maker and explosives expert. Your mindset was similarly manifest. You sought to persuade others that a terror plot here in this country was by far preferable to fighting jihad abroad.