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UK court sentences three to life in prison for airline liquid bomb plot

Video by Catherine NICHOLSON

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-09-15

Three British Muslims were sentenced to life in prison by a British court on Monday for plotting to blow up transatlantic flights leaving from London with liquid bombs. The plot's ringleader was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years in jail.

Three British men have been jailed for a total of 108 years, with minimum terms of up to 40 years, for plotting to blow up transatlantic airliners using liquid bombs.

Their arrests in 2006 had wide-reaching implications for global air travel, leading to severe restrictions on the amount of liquids passengers could take on board.

As he sentenced the three men to life terms at Woolwich Crown Court in London, Judge Richard Henriques said the suspected al Qaeda plot was "the most grave and wicked conspiracy ever proven within this jurisdiction."

"The intention was to perpetrate a terrorist outrage that would stand alongside the events of September 11, 2001 in history," he added.
   
Ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, will serve a minimum 40-year term.
   
Co-plotter Assad Sarwar, 29, was given a minimum term of 36 years in jail, while fellow plotter Tanvir Hussain, 28, said to have been Ali's right-hand man, will spend at least 32 years behind bars.

A fourth man, Umar Islam, who was cleared of planning to blow up planes, was jailed for at least 22 years after he was found guilty of conspiracy to murder.
   
Judge Henriques added: "I'm satisfied that there is every likelihood that this plot would have succeeded but for the intervention of the police and the security service.
   
"A massive loss of life would almost certainly have resulted."

Plastic drinks bottles
   
The court heard the trio plotted to drill holes in the bottom of plastic drinks bottles, drain the contents and syringe in liquid explosive before sealing the holes with glue, leaving the bottle tops sealed.

The plotters were planning attacks on seven flights from London's Heathrow airport to New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto and Montreal.
   
The flights, operated by United Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada, would all have been mid-air at the same time, the court heard.
   
Details of flights to North America were found on documents and on a computer memory stick. The judge said a trail of emails "establish beyond question the ultimate control of this conspiracy lay in Pakistan", saying the plot was controlled, monitored and funded from there.
   
Some of the men recorded so-called martyrdom videos threatening the West with waves of terrorist attacks.
   
The evidence included 26,000 exhibits. Police examined 14,000 gigabytes of data, including 15,000 CDs and DVDs.

Date created : 2009-09-14

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