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article imageThree Men Convicted of Transatlantic Bomb Plot

By Chris Dade     Sep 7, 2009 in World
Three men accused of plotting to bomb planes heading across the Atlantic from Britain to North America have been found guilty by a court in Southeast London.
Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28 and described by the Guardian as the ringleader of a terrorist cell based in London and the Buckinghamshire town of High Wycombe, was one of those convicted of plotting to blow up seven planes departing from London Heathrow airport, using liquid bombs.
Tanvir Hussain, 28, and Assad Sarwar, 29 were the other two men found guilty of conspiring to detonate the bombs that would be assembled on board the planes, having been smuggled through airport security disguised as soft drinks.
Whilst acknowledging that they intended to cause explosions the convicted men had claimed that they would have been only minor, and would have occurred within the airport rather than on any planes as they were in flight. Furthermore they insisted that their actions were merely "political stunts", intended to frighten rather than harm.
The conviction of the three men resulted from arrests made in August 2006 after an operation that involved the intelligence agencies of the U.S. and Britain as well as the British police. As the BBC reports the discovery of the plot ensured that air travelers faced greater restrictions on the liquids that they could carry in their hand luggage, restrictions that remain in place today and continue to inconvenience millions of passengers as they pass through Britain's major airports.
Today's verdicts will no doubt have been greeted with some relief by the British authorities who had seen another jury fail to convict the three defendants following a trial that ended in September 2008. That previous trial had seen all three men found guilty of conspiracy to murder, but the jury were seemingly not convinced that the conspiracy involved the detonating of bombs on planes.
Five other men appeared at Woolwich Crown Court to answer charges related to a plot which reportedly had the potential to claim more lives than the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.
Ibrahim (formerly Oliver) Savant, 28, Arafat Khan, 28, Waheed Zaman, 25, and Donald Stewart-Whyte, 23 were all cleared of conspiracy to murder by detonating bombs on planes, with the latter man (also known as Abdul Waheed or Wahid) acquitted of any general conspiracy to commit murder. The jury was unable to reach verdicts on the general conspiracy charges laid against Savant, Khan and Zaman.
An eighth defendant, 31-year-old Umar Islam (the former Brian Young), was found guilty of the general conspiracy to murder charge but the jury failed to reach a verdict regarding the defendant's part in the conspiracy to detonate bombs on planes.
Another man, Mohammed Gulzar, was as CBS News reported at the time of the first trial in 2008, cleared of any involvement in the plot, although an earlier analysis of the case by Stratfor Global Intelligence seemed to suggest that he was in fact a man sent by al-Qaeda to assist with the entire operation. That same report by CBS News makes no mention of Donald Stewart-Whyte being a defendant at the initial trial.
The arrests that took place in Britain in August 2006 were preceded by the arrest in Pakistan of Rashid Rauf, a British-born man who was allegedly a member of al-Qaeda and supposedly the "mastermind" behind the plot. Cleared by a Pakistani court of any involvement in the plot Rauf's whereabouts are currently unknown, with reports that he was killed by a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan during November 2008 denied by his family.
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