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UK cell followed al Qaeda leader orders -witness

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Mar 28 (Reuters) Al Qaeda's number three ordered a British terrorism cell not to pray in public and to pose as Western tourists when they travelled to a training camp in Pakistan, an informant told a London court today.

The men, some of whom are on trial accused of planning bomb attacks on Britain, bought a camera and took photos to keep up the illusion they were tourists, US informant Mohammed Babar told the Old Bailey criminal court.

Babar, 31, a Pakistan-born American, is the key prosecution witness against seven Britons accused of planning to use ammonium fertiliser bombs to blow up possible targets such as pubs, clubs, trains and utility systems.

Police describe the case as Britain's biggest terrorism trial since the September 11 attacks on the United States.

The men were almost ready to launch the attacks when they were arrested in March 2004, prosecutors say, and Babar has already pleaded guilty in a US court to various terrorism-related offences connected to the suspected plot.

He told the court yesterday that two of the suspects had been part of a cell receiving explosives training in Pakistan and had been under the orders of al Qaeda's third-in-command, a man identified as Abdul Hadi.

''Ausman (defendant Omar Khyam) said that Abdul Hadi had given orders that whoever was travelling was not to pray in public, only in private, no one could pray in a mosque or outside,'' he said ''We had to wear Western clothing and act like Western tourists.

Ausman said the orders came from the top, then mentioned Abdul Hadi.'' Babar also said the men had planned to hide detonators and bomb-making ingredients inside shampoo bottles, cans of shaving cream and tape recorders to smuggle them into Britain.

''Shaving cream was discussed -- opening up the top of a shaving cream can, taking out the shaving cream from it, putting the detonators in a plastic bag, placing the plastic bag back inside the can, placing the shaving cream on top and closing the bottle again,'' he said.

The group had also experimented to see what would make the most effective explosive, he went on.

''We had different ingredients and we tested which one worked the best,'' he said.

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 Momin Khawaja to cause an explosion ''likely to endanger life''.

Three of them are also charged with possessing 600 kg (1,300 lb) of ammonium nitrate fertiliser -- sometimes used to make bombs -- for suspected terrorism purposes.

Two are also accused of possessing aluminium powder. The trial continues.

Reuters SHR GC2315

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