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Fly the friendly skies

Jet plot suspects recorded martyr videos
By DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press Writer
35 minutes ago

LONDON - In chilling videos shown to a jury Friday, men accused of plotting to bring down jetliners over the Atlantic called for revenge for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and praised Osama bin Laden.

Six of the eight defendants videotaped messages denouncing the West for what they said was its suppression of Muslims, prosecutor Peter Wright said as he outlined his case to jurors at a London court.

The defendants, all Britons with ties to Pakistan, are accused of plotting to blow up at least seven jetliners bound for the United States and Canada in 2006.

Some of the group were heard on secret police surveillance discussing plans to take their wives and young children on the suicide missions, Wright said.

Wright showed a jury clips of the so-called martyr videos, recorded for distribution after the attacks. Each man wore a black-and-white checkered head scarf and sat alone in front of a black flag inscribed with a message in Arabic.

"I say to the nonbelievers, as you bomb, you will be bombed. As you kill, you will be killed," said Umar Islam, 29, as he angrily wagged a finger at the camera, denouncing the U.S. and Britain for their role in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories.

Another defendant, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, predicted waves of new attacks on the United States and Britain.

"We will take our revenge and anger, ripping amongst your people and scattering the people ... decorating the streets," he said.

Islam lambasted the British public, saying they deserved to suffer because they cared more about sports and television soap operas than the plight of Muslims.

"Most of them are too busy watching 'Home And Away' and 'EastEnders,' complaining about the World Cup, drinking your alcohol, to care about anything," he said.

All the defendants "expressed similar chilling sentiment in their respective videos," Wright said. The footage, in which the suspects spoke in English, was not publicly released.

Prosecutors calculated about 1,500 people on board the passenger jets — and potentially many more on the ground if the planes exploded over cities — could have been killed if the planned coordinated attacks had been carried out.

Soft drink bottles injected with hydrogen peroxide-based explosives were to be smuggled on board and bombs assembled in jetliner toilets, Wright said. A hollowed-out camera battery was to be used to hide a detonator.

Major disruption was caused to British airports and hundreds of flights were grounded when police arrested the suspects in August 2006. Airlines quickly imposed tough new limits on the amount of liquids and gels — and types of carryon luggage — passengers can take on flights.

Wright told the jury Thursday the group had expressed hopes of recruiting as many as 18 suicide bombers.

Seven flights from London's Heathrow airport to Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Washington, Toronto and Montreal were singled out for attack, Wright said.

The cell planned to strike all seven in a single afternoon in late 2006, though a precise date had not been selected, he said.

Wright said the group purchased an apartment in a London row house and used it as a bomb factory and had collected large quantities of hydrogen peroxide for use as explosives.

Wright acknowledged the men had not been able to assemble a viable bomb, but he insisted they were close to achieving success.

He showed a jury a video of an experiment by government scientists using the same ingredients to create explosives. Thick panels of reinforced glass shattered as the bomb exploded, spraying shrapnel across a laboratory.

In a pressurized airliner cabin at 30,000 feet, the same explosion would have caused a "devastating and lethal effect," Wright said.

All eight men deny charges of conspiracy to murder and planning an act of violence likely to endanger the safety of an aircraft. Both offenses carry maximum sentences of life imprisonment.

Wright said one defendant, Assad Sarwar, had not planned to join the others in carrying out the suicide bombings. He was plotting to cripple nuclear power stations, a European gas pipeline, Britain's electricity grid, an airport control tower and the main exchange for Britain's Internet Service providers, the prosecutor said.

A suitcase buried by Sarwar, 27, in a wooded area at Kingswood, in High Wycombe, west of London, contained explosives and bomb-making equipment, Wright said.

In addition to Islam, Ali and Sarwar, the defendants are Arafat Waheed Khan, 26; Tanvir Hussain, 27; Mohammed Gulzar, 26; Ibrahim Savant, 27; and Waheed Zaman, 23.

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