Four British men fuelled by the words of a US-born Muslim cleric pleaded guilty Wednesday to involvement in an al-Qaeda inspired plot to spread terror by bombing the London Stock Exchange at Christmastime in a Mumbai-style manner.
The nine men were brought together through radical Islamist groups and nurtured plans to attack the London Stock Exchange and other high-profile targets.
They were arrested in raids in December 2010 and all initially denied all the charges against them.
But Wednesday,as their trial was due to start,four of the defendants pleaded guilty at Woolwich Crown Court to involvement in the Stock Exchange plan,and the five other British Muslims to lesser charges.
Mohammed Chowdhury,21; Shah Rahman,28; Gurukanth Desai,30; and Abdul Miah,25,all admitted preparing for acts of terrorism by planning to plant an improvised explosive device in the toilets of the London Stock Exchange. Prosecution lawyer Andrew Edis accepted that the men had not planned to kill anyone. Their intention was to cause terror and economic harm and disruption, he said. But their chosen method meant there was a risk people would be maimed or killed. Chowdhury,from London,was described by prosecutors as the lynchpin of the plot. The other five defendants admitted attending planning meetings,fundraising for terrorism or possessing copies of the al-Qaeda magazine,Inspire. The men were inspired by the sermons of its Yemen-based American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki,who was killed last year in a US drone strike.
The suspects,then aged between 20 and 30,were arrested in London,Cardiff and Stoke-on-Trent in central England,in what police called the biggest anti-terror raid for two years. Prosecutors said they plotted to send mail bombs to various targets in the run-up to Christmas 2010 and had discussed launching a Mumbai-style atrocity,referring to bomb blasts that killed 166 people.
The men held planning meetings,researched bomb-making and scouted out locations including Parliament,Westminster Abbey and the London Eye Ferris wheel. A handwritten target list found at one of the defendants homes listed the names of London Mayor Boris Johnson,two rabbis,the American Embassy and the Stock Exchange.