Would-be suicide bombers jailed for life

image captionGuilty: Savant, Khan and Zaman

Three men have been jailed for life for plotting to murder as suicide bombers.

Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Khan and Waheed Zaman, of east London, were convicted of conspiracy to murder by a jury at Woolwich Crown Court last week.

Mr Justice Holroyde told the trio they would serve a minimum of 20 years for becoming "footsoldiers" in a wider plot.

The plot's mastermind recruited the men as part of his plan to blow up transatlantic planes with liquid bombs.

Sentencing the men, the judge accepted that they had not been the plan's ringleaders - but they had been prepared to blow themselves up.

"In this dreadful conspiracy, the intended role of the footsoldier was to blow himself up and to kill and maim an uncertain but potentially large number of men, women and children," he said.

Abdulla Ahmed Ali, the ringleader, is already serving a life sentence along with five other men, all of whom were arrested in a massive police and MI5 operation in 2006.

Savant, 29, of Stoke Newington, and Khan, 29, and Zaman, 26, both of Walthamstow, were convicted last week after a highly unusual third trial.

After two trials, the trio had been cleared of plotting to bomb planes - but prosecutors said that a third jury had to decide once and for all whether or not the men had been prepared to blow themselves up, even if they had not known what Ali had been planning.

In mitigation before sentencing, lawyers for each of the three argued that their clients had been corrupted or led into terrorism by Ali.

As the three men were sentenced, Mr Justice Holroyde said: "Each of you agreed to join with others in this conspiracy, with each of you intending that you would kill members of the general public and yourselves by acting as a suicide bomber.

"In furtherance of that conspiracy, each of you recorded a suicide video in which you described yourself as being blessed by the opportunity to take part in that mission."

In these so-called "martyrdom videos" the men denounced the West and explained why they had chosen to blow themselves up.

The videos were to have been distributed by supporters following their deaths.

Ali, with the help of two other leaders, Tanvir Hussain and Assad Sarwar, had developed a plan to make homemade liquid bombs.

The devices would be disguised as soft drinks and smuggled on board transatlantic airliners. Ali was carrying a list of flights at the time of his August 2006 arrest.

The flights he had singled out were to San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Washington, New York and Chicago.

Each departed within two-and-a-half hours of each other. The flight details were held on a memory stick which Ali was carrying when he was arrested.

Mr Holroyde said the men had been influenced by Ali, and their faith had been corrupted.

He told them: "I accept that each of you were recruited by Ali and, by all I have heard and read in this case, I accept he was a very powerful personality."

The three men had all denied a charge of conspiracy to murder and showed no emotion during the sentencing.

Earlier trials

Ali, of Walthamstow, east London; Sarwar, of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire; and Hussain, of Leyton, east London, were found guilty of the airline bomb plot last year.

Ali had been in contact with al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and sent coded e-mails to them, keeping them up to date with his attempts to recruit bombers.

Two other men, Umar Islam and Adam Khattib, were convicted on the same conspiracy to murder charge as Savant, Khan and Zaman, but not of the airliner element.

The plot sparked a fundamental shift in airliner security across the Western world, with governments restricting liquids from flights.

The restrictions prompted chaos at airports but have since become part of the standard security arrangements for flights.

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