'Terror gang tried to buy nuclear bomb'

A BRITISH terror cell member planned to buy a nuclear bomb, while others plotted attacks on a shopping centre, nightclub and the power network, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.

The details emerged on the second day of the prosecution's case against seven men accused of planning to carry out explosions using bombs made from ammonium nitrate fertiliser.

David Waters, QC, told the jury that Salahuddin Amin, 31, from Luton, Bedfordshire, was told about a "radio-isotope bomb" while he was in Pakistan.

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Mr Waters said the plan was to buy the device from the Russian mafia in Belgium.

He and Omar Khyam, from Crawley, West Sussex are also alleged to have received training in Pakistan on using the deadly poison ricin.

The prosecutor told how the al-Qaeda-linked gang, who already had the bomb's components, discussed targeting "the biggest nightclub in central London", the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent and gas and electricity supplies.

The conspiracy allegedly involved remote control detonators and 600kg of fertiliser.

One defendant had a dozen CD Roms relating to Transco, which runs the high voltage electricity system and the high pressure gas system. Another worked for Morrisons Utility Services, one of Transco's contractors.

Amin's involvement in the alleged nuclear plot was said to have stemmed from an association with a man named Abu Munthir who had visited the same mosque in Luton.

Both men later went to Pakistan. Munthir then asked Amin to contact another man, Abu Annis, the court heard.

Mr Waters said: "Amin did so via the internet and Abu Annis said they had made contact with the Russian mafia in Belgium and they were trying to buy this bomb.

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"Amin told the police in interview that he didn't believe this could be genuine.

"In his own words, he didn't think it was likely 'that you can go and pick an atomic bomb up and use it'."

Mr Waters added: "Indeed, nothing appears to have come of this. However, it perhaps gives an indication as to Amin's position in, and his usefulness to, the organisation."

In 2003 Amin and Khyam were said to have attended a camp near Kohat in Pakistan for training in explosives and preparing ricin, the court heard.

Shortly afterwards Khyam and several other plotters are alleged to have attended a training camp in Malakand.

The court heard they returned to the UK and bought the fertiliser - enough for five football pitches - in November 2003 from Bodle Brothers, an agricultural merchants in Burgess Hill, Sussex. The buyer, allegedly defendant Anthony Garcia, said it was for his allotment. It was stored at the Access Self Storage depot in Boston Road, Hanwell, west London where the password "pink" was chosen, apparently in tribute to Mr Pink, a character in the film Reservoir Dogs.

"The access code chosen was 666 - a number it was thought they could all easily remember," Mr Waters said.

Khyam, 24, his brother Shujah Mahmood, 19, Waheed Mahmood, 34, and Jawad Akbar, 22, are all from Crawley, West Sussex.

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In the dock with them are Amin, 31, from Luton, Garcia, 23, of Ilford, east London, and Nabeel Hussain, 20, of Horley, Surrey.

All seven deny conspiring to cause explosions likely to endanger life between 1 January, 2003 and 31 March, 2004.

Khyam, Garcia and Hussain also deny a charge under the Terrorism Act of possessing an article for terrorism - the 600kg of ammonium nitrate fertiliser. Khyam and Shujah Mahmood also deny possessing aluminium powder for terrorism. The powder was found at their family home.

Also found there was a long list of synagogues alleged to be "potential targets", including several in north London, one in Didsbury, Manchester, and one in Clapton, east London.

Police also discovered a heavily marked book "understanding solid state electronics" and another document titled "What to do if contacted by MI5 or Special Branch".

Before the gang could strike, they were bugged in an operation by the security services, Special Branch and the Anti-Terrorist Squad.

On 22 February, 2004 Jawad Akbar was recorded talking about attacks.

He allegedly suggested: "The biggest nightclub in central London, no-one can put their hands up and say they are innocent - those slags dancing around.

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"I think the club thing you could do but the gas would be much harder."

On 19 March, 2004, Waheed Mahmood was recorded suggesting "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," he said.

A Canadian, Mohammed Momin Khawaja, who is awaiting trial there over the plot, allegedly made remote detonators and then travelled to the UK.

They picked him up in Khyam's Suzuki Vitara which was bugged, as was a flat in Slough, and they discussed a detonator with a range of one or two kilometres, the court was told.

After planning the "operation" in the UK, Khyam intended to travel to Pakistan before it actually took place, Mr Waters said.

He and his brother had booked tickets to Karachi for 6 April, 2004, a week after they were arrested.

But unbeknown to the alleged bombers police had already replaced the fertiliser at the storage depot with an inert substance.

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They even used an undercover female officer as a receptionist and her calls with the defendants were recorded.

Khawaja was arrested on 29 March, 2004 and most of the British defendants were held the next day, the jury was told.

The trial continues.