Accused U.K. Airline Plotters Admit to Lesser Charge of Conspiring to Cause Explosions

Five men accused of plotting to blow up trans-Atlantic jets have pleaded guilty to lesser charges but maintain they never planned to destroy airliners, a jury was told Monday.

Three men — Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, Assad Sarwar, 28, and Tanvir Hussain, 27 — admitted they planned to set off bombs, just not aboard passenger planes from London's Heathrow Airport to North America, the jury was told.

The five men and three other defendants are still charged with conspiring to murder thousands of people by using liquid explosives to blow the aircraft out of the sky. Their trial is drawing to a close.

Ali, one of the alleged ringleaders, has said he considered setting off a bomb at Britain's Houses of Parliament or other targets including gas terminals, oil refineries, and airports.

Ali and two other defendants — Ibrahim Savant, 27, and Umar Islam, 30 — have also admitted to "conspiring to cause a public nuisance" by publishing videos threatening suicide bomb attacks.

The eight defendants were arrested in 2006. Airlines quickly imposed tough new limits on the amount of liquids and gels airline passengers could take in their carry-on luggage.

Britain's Crown Prosecution Service did not immediately return a call seeking comment.