LONDON – A British man accused of plotting with "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid (search) pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to blow up a U.S.-bound aircraft in 2001.
Saajid Badat, 25, who prosecutors said dismantled his bomb after having second thoughts, was to be sentenced at a later date. It was the first major conviction for a terrorist plot in Britain (search) since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
Badat, of Gloucester (search), England, was charged with conspiring with Reid, who was convicted in the United States, and with a Tunisian to make the bomb.
"It is clear the plan was that Reid and Badat would bring down a passenger aircraft at similar times in late December" of 2001, Prosecutor Richard Horwell said.
Badat received training in explosives in Afghanistan and Pakistan and returned to Britain on Dec. 10, 2001, with his device, Horwell said.
But four days later, Badat sent an e-mail to his handlers "indicating he might withdraw" from the plot.
"He had booked a ticket to fly from Manchester to Amsterdam in preparation for an onward flight to the United States on which the explosive device would be initiated," Horwell said. "But he did not take that flight. We accept ... he had withdrawn from the conspiracy, which by then he had been party to for an appreciable period of time."
In October, a U.S. grand jury in Boston charged Badat with attempted murder, trying to destroy an aircraft and other counts related to the alleged conspiracy with Reid, who also is a British citizen and a Muslim convert.
According to that indictment, Badat "admitted that he was asked to conduct a shoe bombing like Reid" when he was arrested in Britain last November. Bomb components similar to Reid's were found at his home, the indictment said.
Police said Badat had used Belgian telephone cards, which were later found on Reid, to get in touch with Reid's terrorist contact Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian who is now in jail in Belgium.
Badat kept the device at his home in Gloucester, but had separated the fuse and detonator from the plastic explosive, Horwell said.
Reid was arrested after trying to detonate his device aboard an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami on Dec. 22, 2001. He was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to charges in the United States.
Trabelsi, who played professional soccer for several German teams, was sentenced to the maximum 10 years in prison in 2003. He admitted planning to drive a car bomb into the canteen of a Belgian air base where U.S. nuclear weapons are believed to be stored.
Acquaintances in Gloucester described Badat as a quiet, studious young man who gave sermons at a local mosque. Badat's parents reportedly emigrated from Malawi in the 1960s and settled in Gloucester, where Badat was born.
Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke said police traveled to 15 countries, including the United States and the Netherlands, for the investigation.
"Three years of intensive and painstaking international investigation brought us to the point where Saajid Badat had no option but to plead guilty to this horrendous offense," he said.
Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said Badat could expect no sympathy from British Muslims "because he has pleaded guilty to involvement in a terror plot targeting innocents."
"If it had succeeded, this would have been a ghastly crime."