UK ‘plotters sought atomic bomb’

LONDON, England (AP) — Seven men accused of planning al Qaeda-linked terrorist attacks in Britain discussed several possible targets including a nightclub in London, and one of the plotters had tried to obtain an atomic bomb, a prosecutor told a court Wednesday.

David Waters, outlining the prosecution case for a second day, said nothing came of the group’s interest in an atomic bomb.

He said defendant Salahuddin Amin had been asked by an acquaintance in Britain to contact a man named Abu Annis about obtaining a radioisotope bomb.

“Amin did so via the Internet and Abu Annis said they had made contact with the Russian mafia in Belgium and from the mafia they were trying to buy this bomb,” Waters said.

“Amin told the police in interview that he didn’t believe this could be genuine. In his own words, he didn’t think it was likely ‘that you can go and pick an atomic bomb up and use it.”‘

The defendants, all of whom are British and have pleaded not guilty, are accused of having acquired ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder “for bombs to be used in destructive attacks in the United Kingdom.”

Omar Khyam, 24; Anthony Garcia, 24; Nabel Hussain, 20; Jawad Akbar, 22; Waheed Mahmood, 33; Shujah ud Din Mahmood, 19; and Salahuddin Amin, 31, face life imprisonment on the terrorism charges if convicted.

Khyam, Garcia and Hussain deny a second charge of possession of ammonium nitrate fertilizer for use in terrorism. The substance can be used to make bombs. Khyam and Shujah ud Din Mahmood, who are brothers, also deny a charge of possession of aluminum powder for use in terrorism.

Police and security services had overheard several conversations among the defendants, and had intercepted e-mails, Waters said.

On Feb. 22, 2004, defendant Jawad Akbar referred to attacks upon the utilities, gas, water or electrical supplies,” Waters said. “Alternatively, a big nightclub in central London might be a target.”

Akbar was quoted as saying, “The biggest nightclub in central London, no one can put their hands up and say they are innocent — those slags dancing around.”

The seven defendants were arrested in and around London in March 2004. Police also seized 600 kilograms (1,300 pounds) of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. That is about one-third the amount used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people.

Members of the group had gone to Pakistan and received backing from a senior al Qaeda operative called Abdul Hadi, who they believed was the “No. 3 in al Qaeda,” Waters said.

Mohammed Junaid Babar, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent who pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in federal court in New York in 2004, assisted the men at camps in Pakistan, Waters said. Babar does not face charges in Britain and is expected to testify later Wednesday on behalf of the prosecution.

Waheed Mahmood had worked at a company that maintains Britain’s gas and electric infrastructure, a fact “of significance in this case,” the prosecutor said.

The defendants were near a “final phase” of their conspiracy when arrests were made on March 30, 2004, Waters said.

He said Khyam had been in e-mail contact with a Canadian man, Mohammed Momin Khawaja, who is awaiting trial in his country in this case.

Khyam and Khawaja discussed how to make remote detonators, Waters said; on January 25, 2004, Khawaja reported the devices were working and that he would come to Britain soon.

Khyam and his brother, Shujah Mahmood, met Khawaja at Heathrow Airport on February 20, Waters said.

Khyam’s car had been bugged, the prosecutor said, and Khyam was overheard discussing the importance of secrecy.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
AP, via CNN.com, USA
Mar. 22, 2006
edition.cnn.com

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)