Two members of the gang, from the West Midlands, sought out infamous Islamic State supporter Anjem Choudary before they prepared to strike police and military targets on British soil, it can now be reported.
They were arrested in August last year after MI5 went to bug the car of Naweed Ali, only to uncover a pipe bomb and meat cleaver hidden in a JD Sports bag.
Convicted terrorists Ali, 29, Khobaib Hussain, 25, and Mohibur Rahman, 33, who served time together behind bars, denied preparing an attack.
They claimed the incriminating evidence was planted by undercover police officer Vincent, the “boss” of a fake firm called Hero Couriers.
Vincent was cross-examined over 12 days and repeatedly rejected the allegations against him.
After deliberating for more than 22 hours, jurors unanimously convicted the men of preparing terrorist acts, along with fourth defendant Tahir Aziz, 38.
As they were led from the dock, Rahman shouted out: “I hope you’re happy with your lies. Lying scumbags.”
Following the guilty verdicts, Detective Chief Superintendent Matt Ward, head of West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, said: “Today’s case was about four very dangerous extremists who were plotting to carry out a terror attack in the UK.” He described the accusations against his team as “groundless”, saying: “They went against the integrity of the undercover operatives, they went against the integrity of the wider investigation.
“I’m really proud of our officers; I’m particularly proud of our undercover operatives who were in an incredibly dangerous situation.”
Mr Ward called for more to be done in prisons to stop convicted terrorists such as the Three Musketeers plotting attacks on their release from jail. He said: “This is the second time three of these individuals have been convicted of terrorism offences after planning an attack..”
The Old Bailey trial had heard that next-door neighbours Ali and Hussain and Rahman called themselves the Three Musketeers in an encrypted chat on the Telegram messaging app.
Ali and law student turned trainee gas fitter Hussain, from Birmingham, were jailed for joining a terrorist training camp in Pakistan while Rahman was in prison for possessing an al-Qaeda propaganda magazine which contained bomb-making instructions.