London: Three British men, including the ringleader of a terror cell trained in Pakistan have been jailed for masterminding a plot to set off up to eight bombs in the UK that could have been more devastating than the 9/11 in the US and the July 7 attacks here.
Irfan Naseer, 31, will have to serve a minimum of 18 years behind bars, while his accomplice Irfan Khalid, 28, was jailed for 18 years and Ashik Ali was sentenced to 15 years.
"Irfan Naseer was the leader, driving force and man in charge and he alone must take responsibility for sending four young men to Pakistan for terrorism training," Justice Henriques told London`s Woolwich Crown Court today.
The sentencing coincides with the announcement of new UK government rules under which suspected terrorists face having their passports confiscated.
UK Home Secretary Theresa May said the move would prevent Britons travelling abroad to fight or attend terrorist training camps, like the Birmingham-based trio who had been found guilty in February of masterminding a plot that could have been more devastating than the July 7 attacks on London’s transport network back in 2005.
The gang planned to set off up to eight rucksack bombs and possibly other devices on timers in crowded places.
Detectives believe the terror plot is the most significant to be uncovered since the 2006 conspiracy to blow up transatlantic airliners using bombs disguised as soft drinks.
"Your plot had the blessing of Al Qaeda and you intended to further the aims of Al Qaeda. Clearly nothing was going to stop you, short of intervention of the authorities," Justice Henriques said, adding that they had wanted to turn part of Birmingham into a "little war zone".
"I have no doubt you would have continued with your plan but for that intervention. Many deaths were planned by a determined team of individuals who were fully radicalised and you, Naseer, were their leader. No lack of assets, skill or manpower was going to stop you," the judge said.
The three men had raised an estimated 39,000 pounds for terror training and to fund the UK attacks.
The money was raised through street collections in Birmingham, under the false pretence of raising money for Muslim charities.