Airplane Bomb Plotters Sentenced to Life

Three men convicted of plotting to bomb airplanes flying from London to North America with liquid explosives hidden in soft drink bottles were sentenced to life imprisonment, a judge announced Monday.

The men were arrested in August 2006 on suspicion of plotting to blow up planes with liquid explosives hidden in soft-drink bottles. The plot led to immediate restrictions on liquids that passengers are allowed to carry onboard aircraft, resulting in today's rules that allow only small amounts to be carried in resealable clear plastic bags.

The judge, Justice Richard Henriques, called the plot "the most grave and wicked conspiracy ever proven within this jurisdiction."

"The plot would have succeeded but for intervention of police and security services," he said, rejecting a defense argument that the men would have failed to get the chemistry right and actually blow up planes, CNN reports.

The plan involved putting liquid exploisives into empty bottles of Lucozade and Oasis, colouring the liquid so it appeared to be the same as the original. The bombs would have bypassed airport security, and tests by government scientists showed they were capable of blowing a hole in the skin of an aircraft.

The investigation and trials are estimated to have cost £35m. Uncovering and ultimately destroying the cell, based in east London and High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, was the biggest counter-terrorism operation in UK history, involving hundreds of police officers and MI5 agents. Henriques said the plot was driven by Islamic extremism and was an act of revenge against governments with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than an attempt to change foreign policy. "Ultimate control of this conspiracy lay in Pakistan," he said.

Before sentencing, the defence counsel for the guilty men had tried to play down the scale and viability of the plot and their respective clients' involvement. Nadine Radford QC, defending ringleader Ali, said he was "greatly affected" by the suffering of fellow Muslims overseas. She described him as a victim of "political turmoil … where they [the plotters] misjudged what they should do". Radford also said Ali's offence was not as serious as other failed terrorist plots, citing the July 21 bombers and the 2007 attack on Glasgow airport, reports.
The New York Times quoted Mr. Ali as saying, “We have warned you enough.We have warned you again and again to leave our lands.” In his video, Mr. Hussain said his only regret was that “I can’t come back and do this again and again until people come to their senses and realize, ‘Don’t mess with the Muslims.’”