| (From left) Omar Khyam, Salahuddin Amin, Waheed Mahmood, Anthony Garcia and Jawad Akbar. (AFP)
London, April 30: Omar Khyam has the name of a lyrical poet but at the Old Bailey in London today, the 25-year-old British Muslim of Pakistani origin was given life for plotting a diabolical bombing campaign in the UK using massive quantities of fertiliser.
Four of Khyam’s associates, also mostly young Pakistanis, were given life as well for planning outrages that were aimed at rivalling the Twin Towers attack in New York.
Khyam, a promising cricketer cum head of an al-Qaida cell in Britain, was arrested in 2004 and found guilty after a year-long trial costing £50 million.
The jury took 27 days to reach its verdicts.
What has now emerged is extent of the global network of radical young Muslims in Britain, America and elsewhere in the west who know and support each other and use Pakistan as the base to workshop their ideas, get military training, raise finance and develop their strategies to bring terror to their chosen targets.
The plan in the case of the Khyam gang was to use 600 kg of ammonium nitrate fertiliser as the basic ingredient for a bomb to attack the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London — there is now a popular Delhi branch — or the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent (where Bollywood films have been shot). The intention was to cause maximum loss of life.
In the dock with Khyam were Waheed Mahmood, 35, and Jawad Akbar, 23, from Crawley, West Sussex, who were found guilty with Khyam of conspiracy to cause explosions likely to endanger life between January 1, 2003, and March 31, 2004.
Anthony Garcia, 25, of Barkingside, east London — he changed his name from Rahman Adam — and Salahuddin Amin, 32, of Luton, were also convicted of the conspiracy.
|Home secretary John Reid
arrives at the home office in London to make a statement. (Reuters)
Two others who went on trial, Khyam’s brother, Shujah Mahmood, 20, from Crawley — ironically, their mother had asked her older son to look after his younger brother who appeared to be coming under bad influences — and Nabeel Hussain, 22, of Horley, Surrey, were cleared of all charges.
The judge, Sir Michael Astill, reflected popular sentiment by suggesting the men were namak haram.
“The sentences are for life. Release is not a foregone conclusion. Some or all of you may never be released,” he said. “You are considered cruel, ruthless misfits by society.
“You have betrayed this country that has given you every opportunity,” he said.
It seems that in the way that businessmen, lawyers or journalists in one country know their prominent counterparts in another, terrorists, too, keep in touch with each other.
The security services photographed Khyam with over 50 young Muslim men and began checking up on all of them.
They had a priority list on which Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer did not figure. In fact, they were dismissed as peripheral figures though Khan and Khyam had met on several occasions.
Did MI5 make a big mistake because on July 7, 2005 — 16 months after the Khyam gang was picked up — these two were among the four suicide bombers who killed 52 and injured 700 in London'
Rachel North, who survived the blast on a Piccadilly Line train, said she was shocked and appalled. “I remember that Charles Clarke (the then home secretary) came out and said: ‘These bombings came out of the blue, these men are clean skins.’”
Omar Khyam grew up in Sussex and was captain of his school cricket team — his ambition was to play for Sussex and for England. Although his family was Muslim, Khyam was not particularly religious.
But he wanted to take part in jihad after attending meetings of the radical al-Muhajiroun group while at college in Surrey.
He ran away from home to Pakistan at the age of 17 and found his way to a training camp for foreigners who wanted to receive military training for Kashmir. By and by, he found his way to Afghanistan.
Later, Khyam boasted he was working for a top al-Qaida terrorist, Iraqi-born Abdul Hadi, who operated on the Pakistan border with Afghanistan.
It is said that Hadi had a personal hand in overseeing operations in the UK.
Unconfirmed reports suggest he met the July 7 bombers Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer in Pakistan at the end of 2004, and was the mastermind behind the attacks in London’s transport network.
A crucial witness in the trial which ended today was Mohammed Junaid Babar, who was brought from America where he is being held on separate charges. In return for giving evidence for the prosecution, he has been promised a reduction in the 70 years he faces in the US.
It is claimed that not only did Babar meet July 7 bomber Mohammed Sidique Khan in Pakistan, though under the name “Ibrahim”, but also Dhiren Barot, 34, the Hindu who converted to Islam and became a terrorist. Last year, he was jailed for 40 years for planning explosions in the UK and US.