Favoured Tool Of Iraqi Insurgents, Kashmir Separatists - And Al-Qaida
29 June 2007
London: Gas cylinder bombs are being used with increasing frequency by insurgents in Iraq. They have also been used in recent years by guerillas in Indian-ruled Kashmir and separatists in the north- eastern Indian state of Assam. Al-Qaida also used a gas cylinder bomb in an attack on western oil workers in Algeria in January. Though the police said yesterday it was too early to be completely sure who was to blame, the attempted bomb attack in London's West End bore striking similarities with two planned al-Qaida attacks on the capital thwarted by police and the security service three years ago. One gang which was assembling a fertiliser bomb was overheard in bugged conversations early in 2004 considering whether to target the Ministry of Sound nightclub, less than two miles from the scene of yesterday's attempted attack. A gang member was heard to say: 'No one can even turn around and say 'oh they were innocent' those slags dancing around.' Four months later a separate gang who had planned to attack targets in London using gas cylinder bombs almost identical in design to that discovered early yesterday were rounded up in raids across the country and jailed for terms up to 30 years. Members of both gangs had trained at al-Qaida camps in Pakistan. Al- Qaida's ambitions for a gas cylinder bomb attack in London were first uncovered when Pakistani police seized a Toshiba laptop following an armed raid on a terrorist safehouse in July 2004. On the machine's hard drive they discovered a file called eminem2, within which was a 39-page document titled Rough Presentation for the Gas Limos Project. This laid out a plan to pack a number of stretch limousines with explosives and gas cylinders, leave them in car parks at major buildings, and then detonate them. The document was signed EaB. MI5 discovered that these were the initials of Esa al-Britani, an alibi used by Dhiren Barot, an Indian-born convert to Islam who lived in Kingsbury, north-west London. Barot had been a child when his father, a banker, moved his family to the UK. Before travelling to Kashmir in the mid-90s, and undergoing terrorism training, he had worked as a clerk at an airline office in Piccadilly. Barot, 36, admitted writing the document after his arrest and also admitted planning attacks on the London underground and upon financial institutions in the New York area. He was jailed for life last November with the recommendation that he serve at least 40 years, reduced to 30 on appeal. The document drew on lessons learned from al-Qaida including the need to improvise and to feel no qualms about mass casualties. Barot had no plans to die himself and said he would arrange for his gang to escape. Seven other men arrested with him were jailed earlier this month for terms of 15 to 26 years. Privately, senior police say that one of their main fears is the possibility of a car or truck bomb attack on an 'iconic target', probably in London. Members of the fertiliser bomb gang were also overheard considering an attack on the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent. Police moved in when they realised that some members were buying one-way airline tickets to Pakistan. Five men were jailed for life last April after a 14-month trial. Among them was Jawad Akbar, 23, who called his would-be victims as 'slags'. He was jailed for life with the recommendation that he serve a minimum of 17½ years.