"Up to 18" could have joined UK suicide bomb plot

Thu Apr 3, 2008 1:51pm EDT
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Up to 18 suicide bombers may have planned to take part in an Islamist terrorist plot to blow up transatlantic airliners which could have killed more than 1,500 people, a London court heard on Thursday.

Prosecutors said a gang of Britons planned to simultaneously explode passenger aircraft in mid-air between London's Heathrow airport and the United States and Canada.

They were close to putting their scheme into action when they were arrested in August 2006, the court was told.

"It is the prosecution case that these men and others were engaged in a deadly plan designed to bring about, what would have been if they had been successful, a civilian death toll from an act of terrorism on an almost unprecedented scale," said prosecutor Peter Wright.

"These men were ... indifferent to the carnage that was likely to ensue if their plans were successful. To them the identities of their victims was a complete irrelevance. All in the name of Islam."

The alleged plot involved homemade liquid explosives, hydrogen peroxide-based mixtures, hidden in soft drink bottles. The devices would have been put together on board and detonated when the planes were in mid-air, Wright said.

Eight men are on trial. Wright said the plot appeared to centre around seven transatlantic flights, carrying more than 200 passengers each.

But recorded conversations among the suspects suggested up to 18 suicide bombers and other terminals might have been involved, he added.   Continued...

<p>London police following a raid related to the thwarted bomb plot to blow up aircraft in mid-flight, August 10, 2006. REUTERS/Stephen Hird</p>