Anatomy of a Debacle: The London Airline Bombing Plot Trial

Terrorist cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute. Conspiracy is often difficult to prove in the absence of an actual crime committed. Evidence is often fragmentary and inferential. Sensitive intelligence sources and methods, which are absolutely vital to the pre-emption of terrorist acts and the identification and apprehension of the would-be perpetrators, rarely can be introduced, much less discussed, in open court. Because of terrorism’s inherent clandestinity, authorities often have to rely on information provided by informants, turncoats and various agents provocateur of dubious pedigree and motive. Getting inside the mind of a terrorist cell before an attack can be perpetrated thus poses uniquely formidable challenges to prosecutors the world over. None less so than in the United Kingdom where strict legal procedure — including the inadmissibility of information gathered from domestic wire-taps[1] — can render jury verdicts unpredictable in even the most clear-cut cases.

Such was the case in London’s Woolwich Crown Court on September 8, 2008. After deliberating for 56 hours in a trial that lasted five months, a jury sitting in judgment over eight defendants charged with the 2006 plot to bomb at least seven commercial airliners, acquitted them of the most serious charge of “conspiring to murder persons unknown by the detonation of improvised explosive devices on board trans-Atlantic passenger aircraft.”[2] Three of the men, however, were convicted of the comparatively less serious charge of the two, involving conspiracy to cause explosions. The jury failed to reach verdicts on four of the defendants who had earlier admitted to conspiracy to cause a public nuisance by having made al-Qaeda-like martyrdom videos of themselves. And, the defendant whom the authorities believed was not only one of the plot’s three ringleaders but the cell’s main link with senior al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, was acquitted of all charges. How could this have happened in a case where the defendants were accused, according to Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, of plotting an attack that “would have rivaled 9/11 in terms of the number of deaths and in terms of the impact on the international economy”[3] or what even the more responsible British press were wont to describe as potentially “the world’s biggest terrorist atrocity”?[4]

London Heathrow Airport

The Tip of the Iceberg 

A terrorist trial is much like the tip of an iceberg: the exposed, visible area providing only a glimpse of a vastly larger but concealed expanse beneath the water’s surface. This was no exception. In the dock were eight young British Muslims charged with perhaps the most serious and consequential terrorist plot since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Yet, throughout the five months of hearings that produced some 5,000 pages of testimony, the name of the group that almost everyone with even the most basic familiarity of current events might reflexively have expected to have been associated with a terrorist act of this magnitude al-Qaeda was conspicuous by its absence. Instead, the prosecution, as is typical of such cases, focused on the defendants and their roles in the plot. They deliberately ignored the broader conspiracy, orchestrated across at least three continents, and the terrorist organization ineluctably behind the plot.[5]

The prosecution identified three of the defendants as the cell’s leaders: Abdullah Ahmed Ali, age 27; Assad Ali Sarwar, age 28; and, Mohammed Gulzar, age 27. Both Ali and Sarwar were found guilty of the lesser charge; Gulzar, the person believed to have the closest ties with al-Qaeda and arguably the most professional of the three, astonishingly, was acquitted of all charges.

Ali became perhaps the best known of three largely because of the sanguinary martyrdom tape he made that the prosecution had introduced into evidence. Both the jury, and subsequently television audiences who saw excerpts on news shows in the UK and elsewhere, heard Ali promise “floods of martyr operations” and ”volcanoes of anger and revenge” that would leave blood and body parts littered in the streets.[6] But rhetoric aside, Ali hardly conformed to the stereotype of the wild-eyed, fanatical, homicidal suicide bomber. A husband and father of a two-year-old son, Ali held a bachelors of science degree in computer systems engineering from a respectable British university. For all intents and purposes, Ali appeared to be a solidly middle-class product of a successful first generation immigrant family.[7] 

Ali was born in Newham, east London. His father was a businessman who owned factories in both Pakistan and England and he grew up in a modern semi-detached house located in Walthamstow, a typical British middle-class neighborhood, where he attended local public (state) schools. Classmates remembered Ali as a devout, but by no means radical, Muslim. “He always joined in and accepted Western society,” one recalled. Another remarked how Ali “was one of the lads, but one of the quiet lads; not the ringleader. He talked about having a family one day, and that was another thing that shocked me — to hear that he had contemplated taking his wife and child with him to do whatever he planned to do.”[8] The latter point refers to a recorded discussion Ali had with the other plotters in which he mused about bringing his child on the inflight suicide mission in order to diminish his chances of arousing suspicion while passing through airport security.[9]  

Mark Hough, Ali’s high school religious education teacher, remembers two sides of his former pupil. On the one hand, Ali seemed a perfectly “ordinary lad,” good at sports and especially basketball. But on the other hand, Hough observed the boy’s growing Islamic militancy. Ali “thought the Taliban had created a model society in Afghanistan,” Hough said, explaining that when Ali was age 14 or 15 he began to praise the Taliban and call for the introduction of strict Muslim Shari’ah law to Britain. Hough believes that some older college-age students whom the young Ali began to associate with after school encouraged Ali’s radicalization. They watched videos depicting the killing and mistreatment of Muslims in Bosnia and Chechnya, along with ones extolling the virtues of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.[10] It was around this time that Ali is believed to have become involved with Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary and outreach group that has repeatedly attracted the attention of British and American authorities[11]

Ali also belonged to a local gym where it is suspected he came into contact with Abu Izzadeen. The so-called “preacher of hate,” Abu Izzadeen is currently in prison after having been convicted in an unrelated trial of inciting terrorism. Upon graduating from university, Ali left for Pakistan where he worked for a British charity in a camp that helped Afghan refugees. He reportedly was deeply affected by what he regarded as the refugees’ “appalling” condition, for which he blamed Western foreign policies.[12] Ali made at least four trips to Pakistan between 2003 and 2006.[13] Interestingly, at least two parallels emerge between Ali and the four July 7, 2005 London suicide bombers. All were good athletes and keen at sports and it is believed that all underwent some terrorist indoctrination at local gyms — a less than obvious rendezvous for militant jihadists and therefore one presumably not high on the lists of priority surveillance sites for the British authorities at that time.

For reasons that have never been publicly disclosed, the authorities took special interest in Ali when he returned from a visit to Pakistan on June 24, 2006. Police secretly searched his luggage and then the investigation, in the words of the former Assistant Police Commissioner for Specialist Operations, Andy Hayman, became “red hot.” A month later, Ali moved into the east London apartment that he had recently purchased for £136,000 (approximately $245,000) and was to become the cell’s bomb-making factory and venue for the recording of martyrdom tapes made by seven of the alleged plotters. Under police and security service surveillance, Ali was observed purchasing clamps, drills, syringes, glue and latex gloves - the key accoutrements for the fabrication of the explosive devices that the cell planned to use.[14]

Assad Ali Sarwar, however, perhaps conforms more closely than Ali to the popular stereotype of the suicide bomber: a loser with little ambition and few prospects, who is thus prime canon-fodder for a terrorist movement looking for someone who himself is looking for some purpose or meaning for his life. Sarwar was an unemployed university drop-out (from Brunel University) who, though nearly 30, still lived with his parents at their home in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. But rather than a pliable bit-player in the plot, Sarwar was one of its lynchpins. It was he who was assigned both to gather information on potential targets and to obtain all the ingredients required to fabricate the homeland explosives.[16] Indeed, Sarwar’s purchases included more than 40 liters of hydrogen peroxide, the most important component of the home-made liquid explosive being brewed up in Ali’s apartment. Sarwar also oversaw the concocting of the explosive agent. During the trail he “show[ed] extensive knowledge of how to boil hydrogen peroxide down to the right strength to be used in a bomb.”[17] As then-Home Secretary John Reid noted, “They had the components. And they had them cunningly, very sophisticated, but very simply made as everyday commodities that you might take onto a plane with you.”[18]

It was also Sarwar who recorded the martyrdom tapes made by his fellow conspirators and was responsible for their dissemination following the bombings.[19] Police found in Sarwar’s car the Sony Handycam camera that was used to record two of the videos and the remaining five tapes in his garage. Like Ali, Sarwar was also a volunteer aid worker in Pakistan and it is believed that they met there during 2002. Sarwar worked for the Islamic Medical Association, helping Afghan refugees. Upon returning to the UK in May, 2003, he was variously employed as a postman and as British Telecom technician. Sarwar returned to Pakistan in October, 2005, following the massive earthquake in Kashmir and spent two months there as an aid worker.[20] Both Sarwar and Ali were arrested on August 9, 2006 while sitting, talking together in the Walthamstow Town Hall’s parking lot.[21]

Mohammed Gulzar remains the most enigmatic member of the cell, despite the voluminous evidence presented at the trial and his prolonged period in the dock, often under withering prosecutorial questioning. A Birmingham native who also lived for a time in Portsmouth, Gulzar allegedly fled the UK in 2002 after being implicated with his friend, Rashid Rauf, in the Birmingham murder of Rauf’s uncle. Rauf is the al-Qaeda operative, cum protégé of senior al-Qaeda operative, Abu Faraj al-Libi, whose arrest in Pakistan in August, 2006 forced British police to move more quickly than had been desired to round-up the cell’s other members. Gulzar himself had returned to the UK from South Africa in 2006, newly married and with false documents in the name of Altaf Ravat. He had concealed his true identity even from his wife.[22] Gulzar is alleged to have been the plot’s “supervisor.”[23] During the trial the prosecution maintained that the plot had acquired new urgency and preparations intensified shortly after Gulzar returned to Britain.[24] His involvement in it first came to light in August, 2006 when a surveillance team tailing Sarwar followed him to a meeting at Gulzar’s spartan house in Barking, East London. The team surreptitiously filmed Gulzar meeting with both Sarwar and Ali and arrested him on August 9, 2006, within hours of Ali and Sarwar’s apprehension. Gulzar insisted that his name was Ravat (as his South African passport stated) until DNA tests confirmed that his fingerprints matched that of the same Mohammed Gulzar wanted for the aforementioned 2002 murder. Only then did Gulzar admit his real identity.[25]

Gulzar, however, gave nothing away at the trial despite the prosecution’s intense questioning. Peter Wright, QC, for example, accused Gulzar of being an “international terrorist,” a “liar” and a “fraud.” Gulzar maintained his innocence throughout, thus winning acquittal. The following is an excerpt of an exchange with Wright that occurred when Gulzar was in the dock on June 19, 2008:

  Q. You are an international terrorist, are you not, Mr Gulzar?

A. You are very wrong. I am no international terrorist.

Q. You may indeed have a practised [sic] account to give to this jury as to your movements, but I suggest that they are entirely a fraud.

A. You are wrong.

Q. You have lived the life of a fraud successfully for many years, have you not?

A. No, not successfully.

Q. You are an international terrorist, are you not?

A. Like I said to you before, Mr Wright, you are very, very wrong. I am not an international terrorist.

Q. I suggest, and will continue to suggest, you are also an accomplished liar, Mr Gulzar. . . .

Q. I suggest that you became radicalised [sic] and motivated in order to carry out a global Jihad?

A. That is false.

Q. And that part, and I emphasise [sic] part, of that global Jihad, so far as you were concerned, was the successful detonation of improvised explosive devices upon trans-Atlantic passenger jets departing for America from the United Kingdom.

A. I was not involved in any such thing.

Q. That is why you had the batteries in your bag.

A. No, I did not.

Q. That is why you were in contact with Sarwar and Ali.

A. I was not in contact with Sarwar and Ali for anything other than to receive some help.

Q. That is why you arrived in the United Kingdom at the time and in the circumstances in which you did?

A. I told you I arrived in the UK because of my wife and for no other purpose.[26]


Gulzar was also scrutinized about his relationship with an individual referred to in the trial transcript only as “Gabs.”[27] “Gabs” is in fact Mohammed al-Ghabra. Although not introduced into evidence at the trial, according to British intelligence, Gulzar met with al-Ghabra several times, both in South Africa and London, during the spring and summer of 2006.[28] Moreover, in December, 2006 the US Treasury designated al-Ghabra, a 28-year-old Syrian-born, naturalized British citizen, who lives with his mother and sister in London’s Forest Gate neighborhood, as an al-Qaeda agent and facilitator who had provided material and logistical support both to al-Qaeda and other jihadi terrorist organizations. A statement issued by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control explained, “Mohammed Al-Ghabra has backed al Qaida and other violent jihadist groups, facilitating travel for recruits seeking to meet with al Qaida leaders and take part in terrorist training. We must act against those who fund and facilitate al Qaida’s agenda of violence against innocents.”[29] Among other crimes, al-Ghabra was accused by the Treasury Department of:

• arranging for British militants to travel to Pakistan to receive training in “jihad” and to meet with senior al-Qaeda officials and then return to the UK to engage in “covert activity on behalf of al Qaida”;

• arranging for British militants to travel to Iraq “to support the insurgents fight against coalition forces”;

• providing material and logistical support to terrorist organizations in Pakistan, such as Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami (HUJI) and the Pakistan Kashmiri jihadi group, Harakat ul-Mujahideen (HuM);

• undertaking training himself at a HuM training camp in Kashmir;

• consorting with al-Qaeda leaders such as Abu Faraj al-Libi and Haroon Rashid Aswat while on visits to Pakistan; and,

• radicalizing British Muslims through the distribution of “extremist media.”[30]

The British press has openly described al-Ghabra as a “senior al-Qaeda operative.” Following his designation by the US Treasury, the Bank of England followed suit by freezing his bank accounts and other assets. Al-Ghabra was subsequently placed on the United Nations Security List of terrorist suspects linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban and his name entered on terrorist watch-lists maintained by Interpol and the European Union. Under the terms of British terrorist financing laws, al-Ghabra and his attorneys are prohibited from reviewing it or knowing how that information was obtained. Press reports suggest that it includes sensitive intelligence, based on confidential sources and methods including telephone intercepts and information believed to have been derived from the interrogation of al-Qaeda detainees.[31]

Among the remaining five defendants[32] one, Tanvir Hussain, age 27, was convicted of conspiracy to murder and conspiring to cause explosions and cause a public nuisance. He was born in Lancashire but moved to London with his family as a young child. Hussain and Ali met while in secondary school when both were studying at Waltham Forest College. As a teenager, Hussain reportedly became an increasingly devout Muslim and by 2003 was “display[ing] signs of extremism.” The martyrdom video he recorded evidenced this fanaticism. “People are going to die, but it’s worth the price . . . . You know, I only wish I could do this again,” he declared, “you know, come back and do this again, and just do it again and again until people come to their senses and realize, don’t mess with the Muslims.”[33]

Further, the conspiratorial web that wove together Ali, Sarwar, and Hussain — the radicalized British Muslims — on the one hand with Gulzar, Rauf, and al-Ghabra — the seasoned al-Qaeda operatives — on the other, extends well beyond the 2006 airplane bomb plot. According to British authorities, for example, one of Ali’s visits to Pakistan coincided with trips taken by two of the July 7, 2005 suicide bombers, Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, and the leader of the failed July 21, 2005 suicide bomb plot, Mukhtar Said Ibrahim.[34] In addition, al-Ghabra is believed to have arranged for Said’s travel to Pakistan on that visit so that he could be trained at the al-Qaeda terrorist camp in Malakand. Thus, authorities believe that Ali, the two July 7 bombers and Said were likely at that same camp at the same time.[35] In sum, rather than the isolated, unconnected outbursts of rage from entirely self-radicalized, self-selected, independently-operating terrorists that British authorities initially described the July 7, 2005 bombing, failed July 21, 2005 attacks, and August, 2006 airline bombing plots as, a connecting thread directly linking Pakistan to Britain and al -Qaeda to each of these incidents is evident.

Less clear, but potentially significant, are the mutual associations formed by all these plotters through participation in a variety of UK-based Tablighi Jamaat activities. As noted above, Ali had been involved with Tablighi Jamaat since he was a teenager. Both Sarwar and Zaman attended weekend camps that the movement hosted. At least two of the July 7, 2005 London suicide bombers, Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, studied at a Tablighi Jamaat madrassa in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire (where the movement’s European headquarters is located). One of the Tablighi Jamaat’s most popular preachers, Abdulla el-Faisal, was an important influence on fellow Jamaican convert to Islam and July 7, 2005 bomber Germaine Lindsay.[36] Ibrahim and another July 21, 2005 would-be bomber, Manfo Asiedu, worshipped at Tablighi Jamaat services and participated in other movement activities.[37]

A Missed Opportunity

British authorities have described the investigation into the airline plot as “the biggest operation of its kind” ever in the UK to date. The trial has similarly been termed “one of the most protracted and complex ever held in a terrorism case in Britain.[38] The prosecution alleged that the men planned “wholesale death and destruction in the skies above Europe and North America.” The scale of the attacks was described as “unprecedented.”[39] The means were as sophisticated as they were simple. Liquid explosives, concocted from a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and other commercially available ingredients long favored by al-Qaeda bombers, would be dyed to look like the popular British energy drinks Lucozade and Oasis. The terrorists would then use syringes to inject the explosives into the base of the sealed plastic bottles after their original contents had been drained and the small insertion would then be sealed with epoxy. Ordinary disposable cameras were to be rigged to trigger an initial, small, explosion once the planes were in-flight, that would in turn detonate the larger quantity of explosive in the bottle. The hole made in the aircraft fuselage would be sufficient to cause catastrophic failure of the affected aircraft — and the death of all passengers and crew on board. A computer memory stick seized by police from one of the defendants detailed at least seven specific flights, departing within two-and-a-half hours of one another from Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Three, that had been selected as targets.[40]

Yet, the result belies the tremendous time, resources and energy devoted to the case by police, the security service, MI-5, and the Crown Prosecution Service. To be sure, being unable to introduce evidence into open court that could have compromised vital intelligence sources and methods hampered the prosecution. And, as noted above, British law also prevents the use of information gathered from domestic wiretaps, thus limiting the prosecution’s access to admissible evidence. But additional, equally critical issues also affected the trial’s outcome. The jurors, for instance, believed that the prosecution had failed to prove that a terrorist attack on the US and Canadian passenger airplanes was as imminent as the authorities and prosecution argued they were. There were also doubts that the defendants actually possessed the requisite technical skills needed to execute the planned attacks. Further, the defense maintained that their clients had never chosen passenger airplanes as targets. They argued that no flight reservations had been made nor tickets purchased. Not all of the accused had been able to obtain “clean” passports that did not have entry and exit stamps from Pakistan, which would presumably have been needed to avoid arousing suspicion at the airport before departure. Finally, Ali claimed that the plan all along had not been to kill anyone but rather to set off minor explosions at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Three check-in counters in protest of British and American policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East. He explained that the cell’s original plan had been a symbolic attack on the British Parliament building in Westminster. However, heavy security around had caused the cell to focus instead on Heathrow Airport.[41] Further straining credulity, Ali testified that the martyrdom videos the would-be bombers recorded were nothing more than a publicity stunt — a melodramatic way to attract attention to themselves and to their grievances.[42]


Police Officers stand at the scene where one of the raids took place on Forest Road, Walthamstow, London
Credit: David Gerard (Wikipedia)

The US and President George W. Bush in particular, have also been blamed by British authorities for the trial’s disappointing outcome. Complaints voiced in London allege that, upon learning that the plot involved attacks on American targets and American citizens, President Bush foiled the investigation by ordering Pakistan to arrest Rauf, thus forcing the British authorities to act precipitously and round-up the UK-based plotters before sufficient evidence to ensure their conviction had been gathered.[43] A long and detailed passage in Ron Suskind’s new book, The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism, recounts how purported Bush Administration concerns of the forthcoming 2006 mid-term Congressional elections and other partisan considerations where behind the White House’s intervention that led to the inchoate plot’s hasty dismantling.[44]

Another Bite of the Prosecutorial Apple

Undeterred by the trial’s outcome, British prosecutors recently announced their intention re-try all eight defendants.[45] Less than a month later, the British security services announced that the threat from an al-Qaeda terrorist attack in the UK was now at the “severe end of severe” on the UK’s threat assessment spectrum. A senior British counterterrorism source explained that, “We are not chasing shadows. These are potential threats to security and life. Police and the security network are operating at full capacity” given the gravity and immediacy of the current terrorist threat.[46] Regardless of the first trial’s outcome, the threat from al-Qaeda to Britain and the British people continues unabated.


inSITE: The Official Newsletter of SITE Intelligence Group -- April 2008

1 See John F. Burns and Elaine Sciolino, “No Conviction on Key Charges in Liquid-Bomb Trial in London,” New York Times, 9 September 2008.

2 Quoted in Ibid.

3 Quoted in Richard Greenberg, Paul Cruickshank, & Chris Hansen, “Inside the terrorist plot that ‘rivaled 9/11’: What really happened in the case that led airlines to bans [sic] liquids and gels,”, 16 September 2008 accessed at http:///

4 Duncan Gilbert and Gordon Rayner, “Airliner bomb trial: Three British Muslims guilty of conspiracy to murder,” TelegraphOnline (London), 9 September 2008 accessed at:

5 See trial transcript, Crown v. Abdulla Ahmed Ali [aka Ahmed Ali Khan], Assad Sarwar, Tanvir Hussain, Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Waheed Khan, Waheed Zaman and Umar Islam [aka Brian Young].

6 “The Lion’s Roar,” digital videotape.

7 Sean O’Neill, “The eight in the dock: The men who appeared at Woolwich Crown Court over a six-month period in the liquid bomb trial which finished yesterday,” TimesOnline (London), 9 September 2008 accessed at:

8 Quoted in David Harrison and Adam Lusher, “Abdulla Ahmed Ali: A terrorist in the making at the age of 14,” (London), 13 September 2008 accessed at:

9 O’Neill, “The eight in the dock.”

10 Harrison and Lusher, “Abdulla Ahmed Ali: A terrorist in the making at the age of 14.”

11 Sean O’Neill, “Analysis: How the plan was put together; Little did Ahmed Ali and his cohorts know that they were under round-the-clock surveillance while plotting their attacks,” TimesOnline (London), 9 September 2008 accessed at

12  Harrison and Lusher, “Abdulla Ahmed Ali: A terrorist in the making at the age of 14.”

13  Greenberg, Cruickshank, & Hansen, “Inside the terrorist plot that ‘rivaled 9/11’.”

14 Ibid.; and, O’Neill, “Analysis: How the plan was put together.”

15 Peter Walker and Vikram Dodd, “Video tirades that sealed case against liquid bomb plotters,”, 9 September 2008 accessed at: http//

16 Quoted in Greenberg, Cruickshank, & Hansen, “Inside the terrorist plot that ‘rivaled 9/11’.”

17 Vikram Dodd, “Homemade explosive would be detonated with a camera flash,”, 9 September 2008 accessed at http//

18 Quoted in Greenberg, Cruickshank, & Hansen, “Inside the terrorist plot that ‘rivaled 9/11’.”

19 O’Neill, “The eight in the dock.”

20 Peter Walker and Vikram Dodd, “Video tirades that sealed case against liquid bomb plotters,,”, 9 September 2008 accessed at:

21 O’Neill, “Analysis: How the plan was put together.”

22 See O’Neill, “The eight in the dock”; BBC News, “’Bomb plot’ wife gave false name,”, 24 June 2008 accessed at; “Bomb plot suspect ‘wanted global jihad’,”, 19 June 2008 accessed at; Michael Holden, “Airline plot accused posed as newlywed,” Reuters UK, 7 April 2008 accessed at

23 Greenberg, Cruickshank, & Hansen, “Inside the terrorist plot that ‘rivaled 9/11’.”

24 O’Neill, “Analysis: How the plan was put together.”

25 Ibid.

26 Crown v. Ali, et al., 19 June 2008, pp. 83-84.

27 Ibid., passim.

28 Greenberg, Cruickshank, & Hansen, “Inside the terrorist plot that ‘rivaled 9/11’.”

29 Quoted in “Treasury Designates Individual Supporting Al Qaida, Other Terrorist Organizations,” States News Service, 19 December 2006

30 Ibid.  See also Sean O’Neill, “Terror suspect who won court battle is named as a ‘top al-Qaeda agent’; a ‘key player’ accused of radicalizing British Muslims is living openly in the UK,” The Times (London), 26 April 2008.

31   See “Briton denies being ‘Al-Qaeda banker’,” Agence France Presse, 7 January 2007; David Leppard and Robert Booth, “Londoner named as Al-Qaeda ‘banker’; Accounts frozen as suspect accused over terror pipeline,” The Sunday Times (London), 7 January 2007; O’Neill, “Terror suspect who won court battle is named as a ‘top al-Qaeda agent’”; “Bank Accounts of key al-Qaeda suspect frozen,” Press Trust of India, 7 January 2007; and, Jason Groves, “Fury as state benefits go to suspects on UN terror list,” The Express on Sunday (London), 8 July 2007.

32 Those acquitted included: Waheed Zaman, age 24, a former biomedical college student who was head of his university’s Muslim students association; Umar Islam, age 30 (a Muslim convert and former Rastafarian of Caribbean origin who is also known as Brian Young); Arafat Waheed Khan, age 27, who had recently become engaged and had worked in a cell phone shop; and, Ibrahim Savant, age 27, another convert to Islam who worked in his British mother’s bookkeeping business.  Burns and Sciolino, “No Conviction on Key Charges in Liquid-Bomb trial in London.”

O’Neill, “The eight in the dock.”

33 Walker and Dodd, “Video tirades that sealed case against liquid bomb plotters.”

34 O’Neill, “Analysis: How the plan was put together.”

35 Duncan Gardham, “Airliner bomb trial: George W. Bush took decision that triggered arrests,”, 8 September 2008 accessed at:; and, David Leppard, “Fixer for 21/7 plot free in London,” The Sunday Times (London), 15 July 2007.

36 Convicted on terrorism incitement related charges, el-Faisal was recently paroled from British prison and left the country.

37 Duncan Gardham, “Airliner bomb trial; Fears raised over fundamentalist Islamic group in Britain,”, 9 September 2008 accessed at:

38 Burns and Sciolino, “No Conviction on Key Charges in Liquid-Bomb Trial in London,”; and, Greenberg, Cruickshank, & Hansen, “Inside the terrorist plot that ‘rivaled 9/11’.”

39 Peter Wright, for the prosecution, quoted in Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, “8 Accused in Transatlantic Bomb Plot Go on Trial,” Washington Post, 4 April 2008; and Kevin Sullivan, “British Jury in Terror Case Shown ‘Martyrdom Tapes’,” Washington Post, 5 April 2008.

40 They were United Airlines Flight 931 to San Francisco, departing at 1415; Air Canada Flight 849 departing to Toronto at 1500; Air Canada Flight 865 departing to Montreal at 1515; United Airlines Flight 959 departing to Chicago at 1540; United Airlines Flight 925 to Washington, D.C., departing at 1620; American Airlines Flight 139 to New York, departing at 1635; and, American Airlines Flight 91 bound for Chicago, departing at 1650.  See Richard Edwards, Gordon Rayner and Duncan Gardham, “Airline terror plotters wanted heavy casualties,” The Guardian (London), 4 April 2008.

41 Burns and Sciolino, “No Conviction on Key Charges in Liquid-Bomb Trial in London.”

42 Gilbert and Rayner, “Airliner bomb trial: Three British Muslims guilty of conspiracy to murder.”

43 Burns and Sciolino, “No Conviction on Key Charges in Liquid-Bomb Trial in London,”; Gardham, “Airliner bomb trial; Fears raised over fundamentalist Islamic group in Britain”; and, Greenberg, Cruickshank, & Hansen, “Inside the terrorist plot that ‘rivaled 9/11’.”

44 See Ron Suskind, The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism (New York: Harper, 2008), pp. 43-49

45 Luke Baker, “Britain seeks retrial over Heathrow bomb plot,” Reuters UK,, 10 September 2008 accessed at:

46 Quoted in Duncan Gardham, “Terror threat in UK ‘approaching critical’,”, 3 October 2008 accessed at: