UK

Birmingham Terrorist Plotters Given 51 Years In Prison

26/04/2013 10:58 BST | Updated 26/04/2013 14:55 BST
AP
This undated combination image released by Britain's West Midlands Police shows three British Muslim men, from left, Irfan Naseer, 31, Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali, both 27, who on went trial at Woolwich Crown Court, London on Monday Oct. 22, 2012 accused of plotting a bombing campaign that prosecutors say could have been deadlier than the 2005 London transit attacks. Prosecutors say Irfan Naseer, Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali, were part of a plot to mount a terrorist attack "on a scale potentially greater than the London bombings in July 2005." (AP Photo/West Midlands Police, HO)

A group of men plotting to to carry out atrocities worse than July 7 have been handed sentences that total 51 years behind bars.

Irfan Naseer, the ringleader, was told he must serve at least 18 years before he can be considered for parole.

The 31-year-old must take sole responsibility for "sending four young men to Pakistan for terrorism training", Mr Justice Henriques told London's Woolwich Crown Court.

suicide bombers

(Left to right) Irfan Naseer, 31, Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali, both 27

The judge said: "Irfan Naseer was the leader, driving force and man in charge and he alone must take responsibility for sending four young men to Pakistan for terrorism training."

Turning to Naseer, who appeared to mutter under his breath during the sentencing hearing, the judge added: "Your plot had the blessing of al Qaida and you intended to further the aims of al Qaida."

Mr Justice Henriques, who described Naseer as a "skilful bomb- maker", said: "Clearly nothing was going to stop you, short of intervention of the authorities.

"I have no doubt you would have continued with your plan but for that intervention.

"Many deaths were planned by a determined team of individuals who were fully radicalised and you, Naseer, were their leader.

"No lack of assets, skill or manpower was going to stop you."

Police believe it was the most significant terror plot to be uncovered since the 2006 conspiracy to blow up transatlantic airliners using bombs disguised as soft drinks.

The gang, who are all from Birmingham, planned to set off up to eight rucksack bombs and possibly other devices on timers in crowded places.

Together with Naseer, the cell was led by his "inseparable" friend Irfan Khalid, 28, and Ashik Ali, also 28.

Khalid boasted that the attack was "another 9/11".

Sentencing him to an extended term of 23 years in prison and to serve 12 years before he can be released on licence, Mr Justice Henriques said he took into account that he had been found to be in the bottom 2%-5% in terms of cognitive ability.

The judge said Khalid had been under the influence of Naseer, adding: "The sooner you are separated from him, the better."

Partially-sighted Ali, wearing a white robe, was handed an extended sentence of 20 years in prison and will serve a minimum of 10 years before he can be considered for parole.

The judge said he did not accept the defendant's portrayal of himself as the group's "tea boy or runner for others".

Naseer was found guilty of five counts of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts, Khalid of four, and Ali of three, all between Christmas Day 2010 and September 19 2011.

For Naseer, from Sparkhill, Khalid, from Sparkbrook, and Ali, from Balsall Heath, this included planning a bombing campaign, collecting money for terrorism and recruiting others for terrorism.

Naseer sent aspiring jihadists Shahid Khan, 21, Khobaib Hussain, 21, Ishaaq Hussain, 21, and Naweed Ali, 25, all from the Sparkhill area, to Pakistan for terror training in August 2011.

But Khobaib Hussain, Ishaaq Hussain and Naweed Ali were forced to return just three days later after a relative got wind of the real reason for their journey.

All four pleaded guilty to engaging in conduct in preparation for terrorist acts by travelling to Pakistan for training in terrorism.

"It is an especially aggravating feature that the four young men were sent without their parents having any knowledge that they were being sent for terrorism training, believing indeed that they were still in the country," Mr Justice Henriques told Naseer.