Four men jailed for life in failed attack |

Four men jailed for life in failed attack

Associated Press Writer

LONDON – A British judge sentenced four al-Qaida-inspired bomb plotters to life in prison Wednesday for their “very nearly successful attempt at mass murder” on London’s transit system in 2005, two weeks after suicide bombers killed 52 commuters in the city.Muktar Said Ibrahim, 29; Yassin Omar, 26; Ramzi Mohammed, 25; and Hussain Osman, 28, must spend at least 40 years in jail before becoming eligible for parole, Judge Adrian Fulford said. On Monday, a jury convicted the men of conspiracy to murder for trying to detonate explosives-filled knapsacks on three subway trains and a bus.Two other suspects, Manfo Kwaku Asiedu, 34, and Adel Yahya, 24, will be retried; the jury failed to reach a verdict on the charges against them.Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was investigating why Ibrahim, the group’s leader, was allowed to travel to Pakistan – where prosecutors believe he underwent terrorist training – even though he was due in court on a charge of using threatening and abusive behavior while distributing extremist literature.No one was injured in the failed bombings on July 21, 2005. But the judge said that if the bombs had gone off, “at least 50 people would have died, hundreds of people would have been wounded, thousands would have had their lives permanently damaged, disfigured or otherwise, whether they were Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, agnostic or atheist.””This was a viable, indeed a very nearly successful, attempt at mass murder,” he said.Prosecutors said that although the planning started long before, the July 21 attempt was a deliberate echo of the July 7 attack in which four suicide bombers killed 52 people in London. Police suspect, but could not prove, that there were links between the two groups of bombers.Fulford said the events of July 7 meant the July 21 plotters knew how deadly their bombs could be.”The family and friends of the dead and the injured, the hundreds, indeed thousands, captured underground in terrifying circumstances, the smoke, the screams of the wounded and the dying – this each defendant knew,” the judge said. “They planned this, they prepared for it.”All six defendants denied the charges, saying the bombs were meant to be duds and their actions a protest against the Iraq war. But police and prosecutors said scientific tests proved the bombs were all viable. They do not know why they did not work.Sue Hemming, the chief anti-terrorism prosecutor, said the men “tried to cause the same level of death and destruction” as the July 7 suicide bombers.Unlike three of the four July 7 bombers, who were British-born, the July 21 plotters came to Britain as youths from countries in the Horn of Africa. Some are British citizens, while others have refugee status.Police believe planning for the attack started after Ibrahim returned from Pakistan in March 2005. He was in Pakistan at the same time as two of the July 7 bombers, but officials do not know if they ever met.Fulford said he believes the groups were linked. The judge said the second group of plotters was “a parallel but separate team … acting under the overall control of al-Qaida.”In both cases, the bombers targeted three subway trains and a bus, and the main ingredient in the bombs was the same – hydrogen peroxide, a common chemical.Police believe the transit system was not the July 21 group’s original target, but was chosen after the deadly attack two weeks earlier. The original target is unknown.The failed attack sparked a police manhunt, and the suspects were rounded up within days.After the arrests, police acknowledged they had video showing several of the suspects at a training camp in northern England a year before the attacks, but had failed to investigate them further.Ibrahim, who became a British citizen in 2004, had been arrested and charged in October of that year over a disturbance while he was distributing extremist Islamic pamphlets, but was still allowed to travel to Pakistan in two months later.He and two other men were questioned at Heathrow Airport before they left. Even though they had a large amount of cash and a first-aid manual describing how to treat gunshot wounds, they were allowed to board a flight to Islamabad.Brown said Ibrahim’s visit to Pakistan was being investigated. He said that under laws now in effect, Ibrahim would have been deported to his native Eritrea because of convictions for sexual assault and robbery in the 1990s.The prime minister said Ibrahim “applied for a passport, he applied for citizenship of this country, and received citizenship because all his offenses as a juvenile had been wiped off. That would not happen now and he would not get citizenship of this country.”

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