Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Waiting for al-Qaeda's next bomb

THE young men debated endlessly how best to carry out their attack. Co-ordinated explosions on Britain's gas-distribution network were a “beautiful plan”, but difficult. Poisoning London's water supplies was a “weak idea”. Seizing an airliner and crashing it would be “easy”, while blowing up the “slags” (loose women) dancing in the Ministry of Sound nightclub would have a “crazy” impact.

This was no idle bravado from disenchanted Muslims. Omar Khyam, now 25, and six fellow plotters had stashed away 600kg of ammonium nitrate fertiliser, the main ingredient for one or several remote-controlled bombs. At one point, during a conversation in a house in west London, one plotter asked: “Bruv, you don't think this place is bugged, do you?” No, replied Mr Khyam: “Do you know, I think we give them too much credit, bruv.”

As it turned out, their words were being recorded by Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5. The fertiliser had been secretly switched with an inert substance, and an MI5 agent posed as a receptionist at the storage centre where it was kept.

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