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Tue 8 Sep 2009 12:15 AM

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Three men found guilty of airline bomb plot

Failed plot to blow up airliners over North Atlantic changed face of global travel.

Three men have been found guilty in an UK court of plotting to kill thousands of people by blowing up planes over the Atlantic with home-made liquid bombs.Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, Tanvir Hussain, 28, and Assad Sarwar, 29, were convicted of conspiring to activate bombs disguised as drinks.

Four other men were found not guilty of conspiring to murder by blowing up planes, while an eighth defendant was cleared of the more general charge of conspiracy to murder. 

The men's arrests in 2006 led to new airport restrictions on liquids and brought chaos to travelers globally.

Abdulla Ahmed Ali, leader of the al-Qaida inspired terror cell, along with the other defendants, planned to detonate home-made liquid bombs in suicide attacks on transatlantic aircraft.

Flights from London to New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, Washington and Montreal - all departing within two-and-a-half hours of each other - were singled out. Authorities on both sides of the Atlantic would have been left powerless to stop the destruction once the first bomb exploded.

The plot, described in court as the most complex and daring British-based terrorist conspiracy in modern times, would have rivaled 9/11 in its devastation, officials noted.

Counter terrorism police, the security services and prosecutors, spent more than £35 million foiling the plot and bringing Ali to justice. Monday’s verdict was delivered at what was a re-trial for the defendants after crucial e-mail evidence gathered by the US National Security Agency was withheld from the original trial.

The e-mail evidence - detailing communications between gang members and their intermediaries in Pakistan - was submitted at the re-trial and provided the necessary proof that not only had a plot been hatched but that it was also soon going to be executed.

The defendants are due to be sentenced next week.