Five Britons were convicted today of charges that they plotted to carry out terror attacks in Britain that would cause massive civilian casualties. The Washington Post reports:
Here are some of the trial's highlights from the Post dispatch:
The five men, convicted after a year-long trial that ended with 27 days of jury deliberation, were convicted of a 2003 plot to use a massive fertilizer bomb to attack a shopping center, nightclub or Britain's natural gas and electricity networks. Officials said the scheme, in which police recovered more than 1,300 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, was at the time the most ambitious plot to kill mass numbers of people in Britain ever disrupted by British security services.
The convicted men, who face life sentences, are: Omar Khyam, 26, the group's presumed ringleader; Waheed Mahmood, 34; Jawad Akbar, 23; Salahuddin Amin, 31; and Anthony Garcia, 24. Two other men, Nabeel Hussain and Khyam's brother, Shujah Mahmood, were found not guilty in a case the British police referred to as "Operation Crevice."
So if the police were surveilling these two 7/7 bombers, why didn't they arrest them before they could carry out the attacks?
Testimony at trial also included repeated references to "Abdul Hadi" a top al-Qaeda operative who had been involved in training the men at camps in Pakistan. Gohel said security officials have confirmed that the man was Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, 46, a top al-Qaeda figure now in custody at the U.S.-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Pentagon announced last week that al-Iraqi, described by officials as a key aide to bin Laden and one of the extremist network's highest-ranking operatives, was arrested late last year on his way to Iraq and handed over to the CIA.
Gohel said the Crevice suspects' involvement with such a top-level operative was "very significant" and showed that their plot was "not just al-Qaeda-inspired, but actually assisted by, and under the control of, al-Qaeda."
Evidence presented at trial, which the media was banned from reporting until now under British law, showed that the Operation Crevice plotters met several times with two of the bombers from the July 7 attack, known here as 7/7. Police testified that 7/7 ringleader Mohammed Siddique Khan and bomber Shehzad Tanweer, who both died in the suicide bomb attacks, were caught in surveillance operations leading up to the Crevice arrests.
"If Mohammed Siddique Khan had been caught on tape saying, 'I want to blow up London and I'm going to do it,' they should have arrested him," [Sajjan M. Gohel, a terrorism and security specialist] said. "But there was nothing he was saying that was so clear and dangerous. It's impossible to keep an eye on every single individual."Terrorism does seem to present a genuine problem for law enforcement, as the Post goes on to suggest:
"There is always a balance to be struck between allowing terrorists to go ahead with their planning, so that we can gather evidence, and making sure the public are safe. We will never gamble with public safety," [Peter Clarke, head of counter-terrorism at Scotland Yard,] said. "In this case we decided to arrest the plotters when we feared that they were getting closer to mounting their attack."Here's an interesting revelation:
Finally, note this chilling detail:
Monday's verdict was also notable because it was reached with the unprecedented help of a U.S.-raised al-Qaeda operative turned informant. Mohammed Junaid Babar, 31, who was born in Pakistan but moved to New York when he was two, was the prosecution's chief witness.
Babar was arrested in the United States in 2004 and pleaded guilty to terror-related charges. He faces 70 years in prison but agreed to testify against his former colleagues in return for a reduced sentence.
Babar's mother had been in one of the World Trade Center towers when they were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, but escaped without injury. Despite that, Babar told investigators that within a week he flew to Pakistan to join a war of jihad against the west.