Terror gang planned to buy bomb from Russian mafia

Terrorists linked to an alleged al-Qa'eda gang which plotted a bombing campaign in Britain tried to buy a radioactive bomb from the Russian mafia, the Old Bailey was told yesterday.

The gang was also said to have discussed attacking the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, a London nightclub, and gas and electricity facilities

A Luton taxi driver who is said to be a member of the alleged gang was given information while in Pakistan about a "radioisotope bomb", the jury was told.

Salahuddin Amin was asked by a man he knew from a mosque in the Bedfordshire town to contact another man.

Amin contacted the third man via the internet and was told "they had made contact with the Russian mafia in Belgium and from the Mafia they were trying to buy this bomb".

Amin told police after his arrest that he did not think the attempt to buy the bomb was serious, as he did not think it likely that "you can go and pick up an atomic bomb and use it".

David Waters QC, for the Crown, said "nothing appears to have come of" the radio-isoptope bomb idea but added that, whether it was a realistic prospect or not, the discussion showed Amin's importance to the terrorist organisation.

Mr Waters who opened the case for the second day, said a more concrete contribution from Amin was to research and pass on to the alleged ringleader, Omar Khyam, from Crawley, Sussex, the recipe for improvised, home-made explosives.

Amin and Khyam are also alleged to have received training in Pakistan in how to make the toxin ricin.

The pair and five other co-defendants, all British citizens, deny plotting to carry out explosions in London using bombs made from ammonium nitrate and aluminium powder.

The charges in the trial do not involve any radiological element. The jury has been told, however, that the British-based gang was in the final stages of a conspiracy to use ammonium nitrate and aluminium powder, with remote-controlled detonators supplied by a Canadian fellow Muslim "jihadi", to bomb Britain.

The detonators were said to be capable of exploding a device at a range of up to one and a quarter miles.

The gang may have planned three bombs, according to evidence from a police and MI5 bugging operation.

They allegedly had more than half a ton of ammonium nitrate. Although no precise targets had been selected, several had been discussed, Mr Waters said. At the home of Khyam and his brother Shujah Mahmood, police found "a long list of synagogues".

One defendant, Waheed Mahmood, 34, allegedly raised the possibility - in a conversation bugged in Khyam's car on Friday, March 19, 2004 - of "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 do one tomorrow," Waheed Mahmood said. He also referred to the Madrid bombing of 2004, saying: "Spain was a beautiful job, weren't it, absolutely beautiful, man, so much impact."

The home of Jawad Akbar, another defendant, was also bugged. A conversation between him and Khyam, with Khyam's brother, Shujah, probably also present, centred on potential targets.

Akbar referred to "attacks upon the utilities, gas, water or electrical supplies", Mr Waters said. "Alternatively, a big nightclub in central London might be a target. As he put it: 'The biggest nightclub in central London, no one can put their hands up and say they are innocent - those slags dancing around'."

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

He was heard saying to his wife, on Feb 26, 2004, that he did not pray at the mosque because he "did not want to appear ostentatiously religious". He added: "When we kill the Kuf [non-believers] this is because we know Allah hates the Kufs."

He was later recorded anxiously telling his wife about two missing CDs, adding: "They got Transco written on them . . . Transco, you know what, if we get raided today, we're finished." Waheed Mahmood, the jury heard, worked for Morrison's Utility Services, a contractor hired in the south east by National Grid Transco, which supplies electricity in England and Wales and high pressure gas in Britain.

Another defendant, Anthony Garcia, allegedly approached a supplier of ammonium nitrate in the autumn of 2003 to buy 50kg (110lb) and then 600kg (1,300lb) of fertiliser.

Mr Waters said: "Garcia had originally indicated that he wanted it for his allotment.

''This was perhaps somewhat surprising as the allotment would have to be the size of four or five football pitches and, further, it was the wrong time of the year to purchase and apply ammonium nitrate as a fertiliser."

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