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September 15, 2009

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British trio gets life in jail for jet bomb plot

THREE Britons were jailed for life yesterday for plotting a "terrorist outrage" on the scale of the September 11 attacks by blowing up transatlantic airliners bound for North America using bombs made from liquid explosives.

The suspected al-Qaida plot, which British detectives said was just days from being put into operation, had huge worldwide ramifications leading to tight restrictions on the amount of liquids passengers could take on board aircraft.

The bombers intended to destroy at least seven planes, carrying over 200 passengers each, in mid-flight between London's Heathrow airport and the US and Canada in August 2006 using explosives hidden in soft drink bottles.

They were arrested that month following the largest counter-terrorism operation carried out by British police.

"The intention was to perpetrate a terrorist outrage that would stand alongside the events of September 11, 2001 in history," Justice Richard Henriques told London's Woolwich Crown Court.

He said it was "the most grave and wicked conspiracy ever proven within this jurisdiction".

The three, all Muslims, were jailed for life.

Ringleader Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, was told he would serve a minimum of 40 years behind bars; Assad Sarwar, 29, was jailed for at least 36 years; and Tanvir Hussain, 28, received a minimum term of 32 years, the Press Association reported.

The men's lawyers told the court the plot was not imminent and stood little chance of success. But the judge said the plan, had reached "an advanced stage in its development" and that the men had amassed chemicals to make 20 homemade bombs.

"This was a viable and meticulously planned conspiracy and I conclude it was imminent," the judge said, adding it would have resulted in "massive loss of life."

Prosecutors said the plot centered on seven flights from Heathrow's Terminal 3, each capable of carrying between 241 and 285 passengers.

Police believe the plot was hatched by senior al-Qaida figures in Pakistan.


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