One of the men charged with a failed 2005 plan to bomb London’s public transport system denied that he conspired with suicide bombers who killed 52 bus and subway passengers two weeks earlier, according to testimony released Friday.
The defendant Muktar Said Ibrahim made the assertion on Thursday in response to questioning by Stephen Kamlish, a lawyer for one of his co-defendants, Manfu Asiedu. But the exchange could only be reported Friday when a court-imposed reporting restriction was lifted.
Ibrahim, Asiedu and four others are charged with conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause explosions likely to endanger life in the plot to bomb the transit system on July 21, 2005. No one was hurt and all the suspects have denied the charges against them.
On July 7, four suicide bombers launched lethal attacks on three subways and a bus. Police have always refused to speculate on whether there was a link between the two plots.
“Has there been any discussion between you and them (the July 7 bombers) on how to make effective bombs to start a bombing campaign in this country, the first of which was 7/7, the second of which was going to be 21/7?” Kamlish asked Ibrahim in court on Thursday.
“No,” he replied.
The six accused had been expected to present a common defense. But Asiedu broke ranks this week to turn on Ibrahim. He sat apart from the other defendants in the dock, surrounded by guards for his own protection.
Suspect claims failed attack was hoax
On Thursday, Kamlish accused Ibrahim, 29, of plotting a terrorist attack “bigger and better than 7/7.” The lawyer told jurors at London’s Woolwich Crown Court that Ibrahim wanted to detonate four bombs on the transit system and destroy an apartment building with a booby-trapped device.
Kamlish also alleged Ibrahim had visited Pakistan at the same time as two of the July 7 bombers.
Kamlish said the July 7 and July 21 attackers used similar bombs made “from hydrogen peroxide and an organic substance” — the only time such devices have been used in Britain. In both cases, the targets were three subway trains and a double-decker bus.
Ibrahim — who has acknowledged being the “emir,” or leader, or the six suspects — has admitted making backpack bombs from a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and flour, but says he deliberately built them so they would not explode. He claims the July 21 attacks were a hoax intended to protest Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war.
Ibrahim also has said he visited Pakistan between December 2004 and March 2005 — overlapping with trips by Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, two of the four July 7 bombers. But he denied ever meeting them.
“The only two occasions on which the authorities in this country had ever come across an improvised explosive device made from hydrogen peroxide and an organic substance was the 7th of July and the 21st of July ... and you were in Pakistan at the same time (as Khan and Tanweer),” Kamlish said. “You see the coincidence, don’t you?”
“When you say this fact, yes,” Ibrahim replied.
Ibrahim and Asiedu, 33 were charged in the case along with Yassin Omar, 27, Adel Yahya, 24, Hussain Osman, 28, and Ramzi Mohamed, 25.
Kamlish claimed Asiedu had only been informed of the bomb plot the morning of the attack, and had refused to carry a device onto the subway system. His knapsack bomb was found abandoned in a London park several days later.
Three men suspected of assisting the July 7 bombers were arrested Thursday in northern England in the first major development in that investigation in months. They were being questioned Friday at a high-security London police station.
No one has ever been charged in the July 7 attacks.
The three arrested men, aged 23, 26 and 30, are not suspected of being key players in the bombings, or of having directed the attack or assisted in making the backpack bombs, said an informed British security expert, who requested anonymity in return for discussing details of British counterterrorism work.
Police in the northern city of Leeds searched five properties Friday in connection with the July 7 investigation. One of the men arrested Thursday was detained in the city, which was home to three of the four July 7 bombers. Two others were picked up at Manchester Airport as they prepared to board a flight to Pakistan.