3 convicted of plotting London suicide bombings

Defendants found guilty over planning attack on July 21, 2005. Jury deliberating on three co-defendants related to failed attack.

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July 9, 2007 17:42
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Three men were convicted Monday of plotting to bomb London's public transport system on July 21, 2005, two weeks after a coordinated suicide bombing attack on the network killed 52 commuters. Muktar Said Ibrahim, 29; Yassin Omar, 26; and Ramzi Mohammed, 25, were convicted of conspiracy to murder. The jury was still deliberating on three co-defendants. Judge Adrian Fulford told the jury of nine women and three men he would accept 10-2 majority verdicts on the other three defendants, Hussain Osman, 28; Manfo Kwaku Asiedu, 34; and Adel Yahya, 24. All six were accused of attempting to detonate explosives-laden backpacks on three subway trains and a bus in a mirror image of the July 7, 2005 attacks. The devices failed to explode, and no one was injured. The suspects denied the charges, saying the devices were duds and their actions a protest against the Iraq war. The verdicts followed a six-month trial at a London criminal court and came days after police uncovered a separate plot to detonate car bombs in London's entertainment district and two men rammed a flaming Jeep Cherokee into Glasgow International Airport. The gang convicted Monday had mixed together hydrogen peroxide - an easily available chemical commonly used as a hair dye - and chapati flour in a north London bomb factory to create a potentially lethal explosive. The explosives were packed in plastic tubs, with screws, bolts and other pieces of metal taped to the outside as shrapnel. The detonators contained triacetone triperoxide (TATP), an explosive used by the July 7 bombers. Omar and Mohammed set off their devices aboard two subway trains; a couple of hours later, Ibrahim's device failed aboard a double-decker bus. Police said scientific tests on the devices proved they were all viable. They do not know why they did not work. During the trial, Asiedu turned on the others and claimed Ibrahim, the gang's self-proclaimed leader, had wanted the attacks "to be bigger and better" than the July 7 bombs. The botched plot rattled a city already shaken by the July 7 attacks, as London detectives launched the biggest manhunt in British history. A day after the failed attacks, police shot dead Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes aboard a Tube train after mistaking him for one of the bombers. Police said they were under enormous pressure to capture the men, uncertain over whether they would try again and anxious to avoid a repeat of the aftermath of the hunt for terrorists responsible for the 2004 Madrid train bombings. Then, suspects killed a police officer and themselves when they exploded booby traps as police stormed their hideout. Giving evidence in the trial, a specialist firearms officer, identified only as PC 7512, described how he almost shot Omar dead when he found him standing in a bathtub, fully clothed and wearing a backpack. "In all honesty, I still don't know to this day how I did not shoot him," said the officer, describing how his submachine gun was trained on Omar's head. Much of the prosecution's case was based on eyewitness testimony and closed circuit television footage from the targeted subway cars and bus. In one of the most chilling pieces of footage, Mohammed attempts to detonate his charge with his backpack facing a mother and young child. Moments, later passengers are seen running to the other side of a carriage, while an off-duty firefighter, Angus Campbell, remonstrates with Mohammed. Police believe the planning for the attack started after Ibrahim returned to Britain from a trip to Pakistan in March 2005. He was in the country at the same time as two of the July 7 bombers - Shezhad Tanweer and Mohammed Sidique Khan - but officials do not know if they ever met. They believe the transit system was not the original target, but was chosen following the successful attacks two weeks earlier. Their original target is unknown. Following the men's arrests, police acknowledged they had video evidence of Ibrahim at a training camp in the northern English countryside taken a year before the attacks. In November 2006, the former head of Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, said agents knew of 30 terror plots and had 1,600 individuals under surveillance.

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