Nine men were remanded in custody today on charges concerning an alleged plot for Christmas bombings in the UK. The accused are aged between 19 and 28 and come from Cardiff, London and Stoke-on-Trent. They are accused of reconnaissance missions on agreed targets, and testing incendiary devices ahead of the thwarted attack. Reports tonight suggested prosecutors believe that the London Stock Exchange and the US embassy, as well as religious or political leaders, were among the targets.
Piers Arnold, prosecuting, said police had found a handwritten list of landmarks during searches. It included the addresses of the Dean of St Paul’s Chapter House and of two rabbis at different synagogues. It was reported in today’s Telegraph that the accused made a reconnaissance trip by travelling from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall to Westminster Bridge, where they studied Big Ben.
Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye and the Church of Scientology near Blackfriars were also allegedly observed for some minutes, before the trip reportedly finished with a meal in a McDonald’s. Channel 4 News said the alleged plan also included making parcel bombs based on an al-Qaida newsletter.
Appearing at City of Westminster magistrates court in three batches, each of the nine accused spoke to confirm his name, date of birth and address. The senior district judge, Howard Riddle, remanded them in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on 14 January. Twelve men had been held during a series of dawn raids by unarmed counter-terrorism officers last week in London, Cardiff, Stoke and Birmingham. Three men, two from Cardiff and one from London, were released without charge.
The nine accused are of Bangladeshi origin. They are charged with conspiring to cause an explosion or explosions “of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in the UK” between 6 November and 21 December. They are alleged to have downloaded information from the internet and discussed acts of terrorism, and are charged with “engaging in preparation for acts of terrorism” between 1 October and 20 December. The charges specifically accused the men of “downloading, researching, obtaining and discussing materials and methods; researching, discussing, carrying out reconnaissance on, and agreeing potential targets; travelling to and attending meetings; igniting and testing incendiary material”.
The accused are Gurukanth Desai, 28, Omar Sharif Latif, 26, and Abdul Malik Miah, 24, all from Cardiff; Mohammed Moksudur Rahman Chowdhury, 20, from Tower Hamlets, and Shah Mohammed Lutfar Rahman, 28, from Newham, both in east London; and Nazam Hussain, 25, Usman Khan, 19, Mohibur Rahman, 26, and Abul Bosher Mohammed Shahjahan, 26, all from Stoke. Police are believed to have found issues of the al-Qaeda extremist magazine Inspire during searches. One article was entitled “How to make a pipe bomb in the kitchen of your mom”, others included “What to expect in jihad” and “Tips for our brothers in the US”. Police also found extremist literature intended to help people “serve and participate in jihad”.
Anwar Al-Awlaki, the Yemeni preacher whose teachings champion violent jihad against the west, is alleged to be the inspiration for the plot, the court heard. The counter-terrorism operation was led by the West Midlands counter terrorism unit, and supported by the Metropolitan police and South Wales police. Before the nine appeared in court, Sue Hemming, head of the Crown Prosecution Service counter-terrorism division, said: “I have reviewed the evidence provided to me by the West Midlands counter terrorism unit, and I am satisfied there is sufficient for a realistic prospect of conviction; and it is in the public interest that these men should be charged with these offences.”
Last week’s raids are said to have come after several months of surveillance and monitoring by police and MI5 officers. The operation was the most high-profile anti-terror raid in Britain since April 2009, when 12 men were detained across northern England. All were released without charge – Guardian