Three U.K. men accused of providing aid to aircraft plot

LONDON – A British prosecutor accused three men yesterday of conspiring with the mastermind of a plot to kill thousands of airline passengers by blowing up their trans-Atlantic flights using liquid explosives.

Prosecutor Peter Wright was making his opening statement on the second day of the trial of Adam Khatib, 22, Mohammed Shamin Uddin, 39, and Nabeel Hussain, 25. Authorities say if the attack had been carried out, it would have been on par with the Sept. 11 attacks.

The trio ‘was prepared to help in the commission of terrorist acts and indeed did so,’ Wright told jurors at a London court. All three deny the charges but have yet to present their cases.

Last month, Abdulla Ahmed Ali was convicted of being the ringleader of a plan to down at least seven trans-Atlantic flights in simultaneous attacks which security officials say were directed by senior Islamic militants in Pakistan. He was given a minimum of 40 years in prison. Two others – Assad Sarwar and Tanvir Hussain – were also convicted of helping plot the attacks.

Wright said that while each of three defendants in court yesterday were prepared to help Ali and ‘do their bit,’ he acknowledged that the participants may not have known the precise nature of the plan.

He accused Khatib, who is charged with conspiracy to murder, of working with Ali ‘to bring about a deadly attack upon the civilian population by the detonation of improvised explosive devices.’

Uddin, who Wright described as a ‘radicalized and committed Islamist,’ is accused of researching how to use hydrogen peroxide – a key building block for the liquid explosives which would have been used in the bombings. Wright said Uddin met with Ali in the weeks before authorities broke up in the plot in August 2006.

Hussain is accused of meeting with Ali twice in July 2006 and of having a will and a 25,000 pound ($40,000) loan application. Wright said those were ‘consistent with him fundraising for terrorist activity or contemplating taking his own life and making provision for his family.’

The airline bomb plot was described by former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte as ‘on a par, or something similar to 9/11.’ Britain’s Home Secretary Alan Johnson said that, if successful, the attacks would have wrought ‘murder and mayhem on an unimaginable scale.’

Discovery of the plan caused massive disruptions at London’s Heathrow Airport and brought sweeping new restrictions for air passengers, including limits on the amount of liquids and gels they can take carry on board.