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UK blasts: Case Heard Today

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Mar 22: Seven Britons, accused of planning bomb attacks on the UK, discussed blowing up one of the country's largest shopping malls and ''the biggest nightclub in London,'' a court heard today.

Police surveillance officers also overheard some of the suspects praising the Madrid bombings of March 2004, talking about detonators and considering attacks on Britain's gas, electrical or water supplies, prosecutor David Waters said.

London's Old Bailey criminal court also heard claims that Pakistani militants had tried to buy a nuclear bomb from the Russian mafia in a plot that never came to fruition.

Waters told the court that one suspect, Waheed Mahmood, had suggested a blast at the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, just outside London, on a Saturday when it would be crowded with shoppers.

Mahmood, he added, was caught by covert listening devices in a fellow suspect's car on March 19, 2004, saying: ''Is it worth getting all the brothers together tonight and asking who would be ready to go?'' Mahmood was also said to have raised the possibility of ''a little explosion at Bluewater -- tomorrow if you want.

''I don't know how big it would be, we haven't tested it, but we could tomorrow -- do one tomorrow.''


Earlier, the prosecution said Mahmood had been overheard saying of the Madrid bombings: ''Spain was a beautiful job weren't it, absolutely beautiful man, so much impact.'' The suspects, Anthony Garcia, Jawad Akbar, Omar Khyam, his brother Shujah Mahmood, Waheed Mahmood, Nabeel Hussain, and Salahuddin Amin are accused of conspiring with Canadian Mohammed Momin Khawaja to cause an explosion ''likely to endanger life''.

Garcia, Khyam and Hussain are also charged with possessing 600 kg (1,300 lb) of ammonium nitrate fertiliser -- sometimes used to make bombs -- which detectives suspected was ''for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism''.

Khyam and Shujah Mahmood are also accused of possessing aluminium powder, also for suspected terrorist purposes.

The court yesterday heard that some of the men had travelled to Pakistan for explosives training while Khawaja, who is currently awaiting trial in his homeland, was to have provided expertise for detonators.

The jury were also told some of the men had claimed they had links to al Qaeda's number three -- identified as Abdul Hadi.

Prosecutors said the suspects were close to carrying out their attacks when arrested and had only to identify the target.

Prosecutor Waters today said Akbar was secretly recorded discussing possible targets with Khyam.

''The biggest nightclub in central London, no one can put their hands up and say they are innocent -- those slags dancing around,'' Waters told the court he had said.

Days later, Akbar was overheard fretting to his wife about two missing CDs with ''Transco'' written on them.

''Transco, you know what -- if we got raided today we're finished,'' he said, according to Waters.

National Grid Transco owns and operates the electricity and high pressure gas systems in Britain and Waheed Mahmood was employed by one of the firm's two principal contractors at the time, Waters said.

Later, the court heard that Amin had told UK police in an interview last year that his superior in a Pakistan training camp had asked him to help contact the Russian mafia about buying a radioisotope bomb.

Amin told police he did not think it was a genuine plot adding it was unlikely ''that you can go and pick an atomic bomb up and use it,'' Waters said, adding nothing appeared to have developed out of the plan.

Even so, he argued that it showed Amin's importance to the militant organisation.

The trial continues.


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