Operation Crevice

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Operation Crevice was a raid launched by Metropolitan and local police in England on the morning of 30 March 2004. It was in response to a report indicating cells of terrorists of Pakistani, operating in the Thames Valley, Sussex, Surrey and Bedfordshire areas, the source of which was said to be an interception of an instruction sent from Al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan to militants in Britain. The operation resulted in five men being found guilty in April 2007 of conspiring to cause explosions likely to endanger life.[1]

The arrests[edit]

A number of arrests were made, and 1,300 pounds (600 kg) of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, which can be used in making bombs, were confiscated. The chemical was seized in a storage space in Hanwell in west London.

At least six homes in Langley Green, in Crawley, were searched, and an area was excavated at one site. A biscuit tin filled with aluminium powder, another potential bomb ingredient, was recovered behind a garden shed.[2]

The arrest of software engineer Momin Khawaja on 29 March 2004, in Ottawa, Canada, was reportedly related to Operation Crevice. He was reportedly experimenting with remote-controlled detonators.[2]

The court case against the men began in March 2006 and lasted till April 30, 2007. The jury was out for 27 days. The BBC report named the accused as:

Mohammad Momin Khawaja, in custody in Canada, also stands as the 8th man charged of being part of the alleged plot. A ninth man, Mohammed Junaid Babar is the prosecution's star witness. An alleged leader of this group was a man named Mohammed Quayyum Khan who was an alleged associate of both Abu Hamza & Omar Bakri.[4] Mohammed Quayyum Khan [or "Q" as he was called by the group & the courts] is apparently still at large after the police, inexplicably, failed to arrest him. British Intelligence Services have also still not announced the links between the accused & the 7/7 bombers even though photographic evidence was leaked to the daily newspapers showing members of this gang with two of the future suicide bombers.

The court case, the BBC reports, is based mainly around the evidence of so-called supergrass (informant) Mohammed Junaid Babar, who was found guilty of terrorist offences in the USA. The defence described him as a "liar and a fantasist." The BBC also report that the potential targets for the case included the Bluewater shopping centre in Greenhithe, Kent, the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London and London synagogues.

Mohammed Junaid Babar[edit]

Mohammed Junaid Babar is the prosecution's star witness. He was flown to London to give evidence in the case, and arrived at court amid heavy security, driven from a police station in an armoured convoy with a helicopter overhead.[5]

The prosecution claims that he was part of the plot and "has an insight as an insider into the events and plans, which an outsider could not have."

He has been given immunity from prosecution in relation to the charges the British defendants face.[6]

He claims to have stolen three computers from a software company he worked for in Peshawar and given them to Mahmood because they were needed by Al Qaeda. The company was run by the older brother of one of the founder members of al-Muhajiroun.[7]

The counsel for the defence called this witness "a liar, nothing more than a conceited fantasist."[8]

The trial[edit]

The trial began in March 2006, and the prosecution ran its charges until the end of August. The allegations brought up by the witness testimony and evidence included the following:

  • Possession of a 600 kg bag of ammonium nitrate fertiliser "which could have been used to make bombs".[6]
  • Planning to hide ammonium nitrate in bags of dried fruit so that it could be shipped to the UK by Federal Express.[9]
  • Conspiring with Mohammed Momin Khawaja, a Canadian, and other unknown persons to "cause... an explosion... of a nature likely to endanger life".[6]
  • Working for Abdul Hadi, said to be number three in Al Qaeda.[6]
  • Planning to transport detonators inside small radios[6] or bottles of shampoo or shaving cream from Pakistan to the UK via Iran, Turkey, eastern Europe, and Belgium.[9]
  • Planning to buy a radio-isotope bomb from the Russian mafia in Belgium.[10]
  • Plotting to poison football crowds by selling spiked drinks at matches, and sell poisoned food from a takeaway restaurant.[11]
  • Receiving terrorist training in the use of explosives in Pakistan.[12]
  • Planning to set off explosions in shopping centres, nightclubs, synagogues, and disrupt electricity and gas supplies.[10] The police played secret recordings during the trial made in February 2004 of the suspects discussing potential targets.[13]
  • Plotting to emulate the 11 September 2001 attacks by finding 30 "brothers" willing to commit suicide and crash a plane.[14] (This discussion was also caught on tape.)

Omar Khyam's defence testimony began with him telling the court of his gradual conversion to militant jihadist and wish to help the fighters in Kashmir and Afghanistan.[15]

Then, on 18 September, to the surprise of his defence counsel, Khyam refused to give any more evidence, stating that the ISI in Pakistan has had words with his family and were worried that he might reveal more about them. He added: "right now, as much as I want to clarify matters, the priority for me has to be the safety of my family so I am going to stop." He assured the judge that he understood that his refusal to answer questions might cause the jury to be suspicious.[16]

Salahuddin Amin's testimony consisted of claims that he had been tortured by his Pakistani jailers during his 10 month detention, and that this must have been known to the US and British officials who interviewed him numerous times during his detention. He said he confessed to being involved in a plot to buy an "isotope bomb" after being hung up by his wrists and beaten on his back and "things" with the lashes, and threatened to be raped by the handle.[17]

Nabeel Hussain, who loaned the money to pay for the storage of ammonium nitrate, claimed he thought it was sand.[18]

Counsel for Shujah Mahmood, who was only 16 at the time of the events, claimed he was not aware of the plot and was merely taken advantage of by his older brother.[19]

Judge Sir Michael Astill announced on 20 April 2007 that he would accept a majority verdict in the case.[20] On 30 April, Omar Khyam, Waheed Mahmood, Jawad Akbar, Salahuddin Amin, and Anthony Garcia were found guilty of conspiring to cause explosions likely to endanger life between 1 January 2003 and 31 March 2004.[21] Shujah Mahmood and Nabeel Hussain were found not guilty of all charges.

The defendants found guilty were sentenced to life imprisonment. Omar Khyam was given a minimum term of 20 years, Anthony Garcia 20 years, Jawad Akbar 17½ years, Waheed Mahmood 20 years and Salahuddin Amin 17½ years.[1]

Momin Khawaja was found guilty in Canada’s first terrorism trial on charges of helping to develop bomb detonators, possession of explosives, helping to finance terrorist activity, receiving terrorist training and facilitating terrorism. On March 12, 2009 he was sentenced to 10.5 years in prison.[22]

Background[edit]

An organisation associated with the attacks is the group al-Muhajiroun. According to the BBC, some of the perpetrators became interested in jihad during the time they were involved with al-Muhajiroun.[23] According to Professor Anthony Glees, director of the Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies –

The fertiliser bomb trial has given us the smoking-gun evidence that groups like al-Muhajiroun have had an important part in radicalising young British Muslims, and that this can create terrorists.[24]

Al-Muhajiroun was disbanded by its founder Omar Bakri Mohammed in 2004. Shortly after 7 July 2005 London bombings, Prime Minister Tony Blair "announced the group would be banned as part of a series of measures against condoning or glorifying terrorism."[25]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "'You Have Betrayed This Country'". Sky News. 30 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-30. 
  2. ^ a b British terror trial centers on alleged homegrown plot - Europe - International Herald Tribune
  3. ^ a b Vidino, Lorenzo. "Al-Qaeda in Europe", 2006. Prometheus Books
  4. ^ a b "Bin Laden's 'Bashful Dwarf' on the loose in Britain". Daily Mail. 2007-05-01. Retrieved 2012-02-18. "Meanwhile Sajil Shahid has been able to travel freely despite suspicions that he set up the training camp where Khan and Khyam learned bomb-making." 
  5. ^ Rosie Cowan (24 March 2005). "FBI informer 'met Britons on Afghan jihad'". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "UK seven 'were ready to start bombing'". London: The Guardian. 21 March 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  7. ^ Press Association (24 March 2006). "Supergrass tells of connection to alleged bomb plot". London: Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  8. ^ "Bomb plot witness is 'fantasist'". BBC News. 5 April 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  9. ^ a b Neville Dean (29 March 2006). "Court told of plot to smuggle bomb material". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  10. ^ a b Rosie Cowan (23 March 2006). "British suspects considered blowing up London club, court told". The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  11. ^ Rosie Cowan (25 March 2006). "Terror plot trial told of scheme to sell poisoned drinks". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  12. ^ Rosie Cowan (22 March 2006). "Seven with alleged al-Qaida links deny plotting terror bomb campaign". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  13. ^ Sandra Laville (26 May 2006). "Terror trial hears tapes of plot to blow up club". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  14. ^ Jeevan Vasagar (17 June 2006). "Jury hears of plot to copy 9/11". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  15. ^ David Pallister (15 September 2006). "British defendant in terror plot trial tells of gradual conversion to militant jihadist". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  16. ^ Jeevan Vasagar (19 September 2006). "Terror accused halts evidence citing fear for relatives". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  17. ^ Ian Cobain (29 November 2006). "British Muslim tells of torture in Pakistan as US officials stood by". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  18. ^ "Man 'duped' over fertiliser store". BBC News. 2 October 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  19. ^ "Bomb plot accused 'used as gofer'". BBC News. 8 November 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  20. ^ "'Bomb plot' jury receive ruling". BBC News. 20 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-20. 
  21. ^ "Five get life over UK bomb plot". BBC News. 30 April 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  22. ^ CBC, Khawaja found guilty in terrorism trial, October 29, 2008
  23. ^ Fertiliser bomb plot: The story. By Chris Summers and Dominic Casciani 30 April 2007
  24. ^ The network.... With a worldwide influence and a radicalised following, is al-Muhajiroun waiting to strike again? Jamie Doward and Andrew Wander report. May 6 2007 guardian.co.uk
  25. ^ Muslims in police will rise up, Bakri insists. By Mike Hirst and Adam Lusher

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