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4 men jailed for life in failed 2005 London transit bombings

    LONDON — A judge on Wednesday sentenced four men he described as al-Qaida-inspired plotters to life in prison for trying to bomb London’s transit system in July 2005, two weeks after suicide bombers killed 52 commuters.
    Muktar Said Ibrahim, 29; Yassin Omar, 26; Ramzi Mohammed, 25; and Hussain Osman, 28, must spend at least 40 years in jail before becoming eligible for parole, said Judge Adrian Fulford. A jury on Monday found them guilty of conspiracy to murder in a plot to detonate explosives-filled knapsacks on three subway trains and a bus.
    The bombs failed to explode, and no one was injured.
    The judge said that that if the bombs had gone off, ‘‘at least 50 people would have died, hundreds of people would have been wounded, thousands would have had their lives permanently damaged, disfigured or otherwise, whether they were Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, agnostic or atheist.’’
    He said that the July 7 and July 21 plots ‘‘were both part of an al-Qaida-inspired and controlled sequence of attacks.’’
    Two other suspects, Manfo Kwaku Asiedu, 34, and Adel Yahya, 24, will be retried because the jury failed to reach a verdict.
    Police believe the transit system was not the group’s original target, but was chosen following the attacks two weeks earlier. The original target is unknown. Police also suspect, but could not prove, that there were links between the two groups of bombers.
    Fulford said the events of July 7 meant the July 21 plotters knew how deadly their bombs were likely to be.
    ‘‘The family and friends of the dead and the injured, the hundreds, indeed thousands, captured underground in terrifying circumstances, the smoke, the screams of the wounded and the dying — this each defendant knew,’’ the judge said.
    ‘‘They planned this, they prepared for it. They had spent many hours making viable bombs. After 7/7, each defendant knew exactly what the result would be.’’
    All six defendants denied the charges, saying the devices were duds and their actions a protest against the Iraq war. But police and prosecutors said scientific tests proved the bombs were all viable. They do not know why they did not work.
    ‘‘Exactly two weeks after the terrorist attacks on 7/7 these men targeted the same transport system and tried to cause the same level of death and destruction,’’ said Sue Hemming, head of counterterrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service.
    ‘‘While the implementation of their plan was incompetent, their aim was clear. They wanted to kill and maim on a massive scale,’’ she said.
    In both cases, the main ingredient in the bombs was the same — hydrogen peroxide, an easily available chemical commonly used in hair dying and coloring. The hydrogen peroxide was made into a volatile mix with flour and packed into tubs and surrounded by bolts and screws.
    Unlike three of the four July 7 bombers, who were British-born, those in the July 21 plot had come to Britain as youths from countries in the Horn of Africa. Some had become British citizens, while others had refugee status.
    Police believe the planning for the attack started after Ibrahim returned to Britain from a trip to Pakistan in March 2005. He was in that country at the same time as two of the July 7 bombers — Shezhad Tanweer and Mohammed Sidique Khan — but officials do not know if they ever met.
    The failed attack sparked a huge police manhunt for the would-be suicide bombers. Much of the prosecution’s case was based on eyewitness testimony and closed-circuit television footage from the targeted subway cars and bus.
    Following the men’s arrests, police acknowledged they had video evidence of several of the suspects at a training camp in the northern English countryside taken a year before the attacks but had failed to identify them.
    Ibrahim also had been arrested and charged over a disturbance while he was distributing extremist Islamic pamphlets, but was allowed to travel to Pakistan months before the failed attacks.

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