Michael Holden, Reuters, Feb. 17, 2009
A group of British Islamists plotted to cause deaths on an “almost unprecedented scale” by blowing up transatlantic airliners using liquid explosives hidden in soft drink bottles, a London court heard Tuesday.
The eight men were almost ready to execute their plan to bring down seven aircraft simultaneously in mid-air as they flew from London to the United States and Canada when they were arrested, Woolwich Crown Court was told.
The suspects, who deny conspiracy to murder, were arrested in August 2006, just over a year after four young British Islamists killed 52 commuters in suicide bomb attacks on London’s transport system.
The men intended to smuggle on board components for their improvised bombs hidden as soft drink bottles, batteries, and involving other innocuous items, the court was told.
They had targeted seven flights, operated by American Airlines, United Airlines and Air Canada, to Chicago, New York, Washington, Montreal, Toronto, and San Francisco.
The planes were either 777s, 767s or 763s, capable of carrying between 241 and 285 passengers and crew.
The plot was directed from Pakistan while Abdullah Ahmed Ali was the ringleader in Britain, Wright said. Some of those on trial were foot soldiers, with the “cold-eyed certainty of the fanatic,” who would have carried out the suicide attacks.
Wright said the men were indifferent to the carnage they would have caused and the identities of their victims was an “irrelevance.” He said the plot was “all in the name of Islam.”