Trial Begins for 8 Accused in Plot to Down British Airliners

Eight British men planned to detonate bombs aboard airliners bound for the U.S. and Canada, hoping to kill hundreds of passengers in a major terrorist attack, a prosecutor said Thursday as he opened a trial into the case.

Prosecutor Peter Wright said the men hoped to strike passenger jets flying out of London at the height of the summer vacation season in 2006.

"The plan was designed to bring about what would have been a civilian death toll on an almost unprecedented scale," Wright said.

He said the plot was intended to be a "violent and deadly statement of intent" in the name of Islam, that would have repercussions across the world.

Wright told jurors that the suspects hoped to smuggle liquid explosives — concealed in containers disguised to resemble soft drinks bottles — on planes leaving London. The explosives would then be assembled and detonated in mid-flight.

Airlines imposed tough new limits on the amount of liquids and gels passengers can carry on to flights as a result of the alleged plot.

"The attack they contemplated was not long off," when police rounded up the men on Aug. 9-10, 2006, Wright said.

The alleged plot caused major disruption to British airports and hundreds of flights were grounded when police arrested the suspects.

All eight men, each of whom has family ties to Pakistan, are accused of conspiracy to murder and a charge of planning an act of violence likely to endanger the safety of an aircraft. Both charges carry maximum sentences of life imprisonment.

The men are: Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27; Assad Sarwar, 27; Tanvir Hussain, 27; Mohammed Gulzar, 26; Ibrahim Savant, 27; Arafat Waheed Khan, 26; Waheed Zaman, 23 and Umar Islam, 29.

Ali is also known as Ahmed Ali Khan and Islam is also known as Brian Young, according to court records.