An extremist Muslim plot to kill innocent commuters in a series of murderous suicide bombings only failed at the last moment because of problems with the explosive mixture, hot weather or mere "good fortune", a court heard yesterday.
A six-strong terrorist cell, several of whom had attended sermons by the radical Islamic preacher Abu Hamza, allegedly planned to carry out synchronised bombings on the London transport network exactly two weeks after the deadly July 7 terror attacks.
However, the lives of many passengers on July 21, 2005, were spared when their rucksack bombs of chemicals, chapatti flour and shrapnel failed to explode, Woolwich Crown Court was told.
One of the men, Yassin Omar, fled London after the attempted attacks disguised as a woman wearing a burka, their trial heard.
Omar was captured on CCTV at Golders Green coach station in north London and at Birmingham coach station disguised in the traditional Muslim women’s dress.
He was picked up on the CCTV just a day after the attempted attacks, Woolwich Crown Court was told.
Prosecuting counsel Nigel Sweeney said: "CCTV shows him and his fiancee at Golders Green coach station and him at Birmingham coach station that evening disguised in the burka."
He was arrested at a house in Birmingham on Wednesday, July 27.
"He was found fully clothed, stood in a bath, wearing a rucksack on his back," Mr Sweeney said.
Two of the other defendants, Muktar Ibrahim and Ramzi Mohammed, were arrested at a flat in London two days later.
A fourth, Hussain Osman, travelled to Rome, where he was arrested on July 29.
The prosecution alleged that Manfo Asiedu was supposed to be the fifth bomber but he "lost his nerve at the last moment" and dumped his bomb in a wooded area.
At the opening of their trial, it was disclosed that five of the six men had been under surveillance by police during a camping trip to the Lake District almost 15 months before their alleged attempt to bomb three Tube trains and a bus.
Their photographs were taken by police as they lined up with others on the trip, on a bank holiday weekend in early May 2004, apparently to take part in Islamic prayer. Less than a year later, the six men began formulating a plan to detonate rucksack bombs on London’s public transport system, the court was told. By late April 2005, they had started buying the first of the necessary components for their home-made explosive devices, it was alleged.
A one-bedroom flat in Curtis House, New Southgate, north London, was selected as the "bomb factory". The role of five of the men was ultimately that of "would be suicide bombers", who would strike at London’s travelling public, the court was told.
The jury heard that the men were extremists. Three attended Hamza’s sermons at Finsbury Park Mosque, one received military training in Sudan, while four went on a camping trip to Scotland in 2004 to "get fit for jihad", it was alleged.
Prosecuting counsel Nigel Sweeney QC said the alleged conspiracy had been in existence "long before" the "carnage" of July 7 and was not some "hastily arranged copycat".
One of the five bombers "lost his nerve at the last moment" and dumped his rucksack device in woodland, but the other four tried to detonate their bombs as planned, the jury heard.
When they failed to explode, the bombers fled in the midst of the ensuing "panic and confusion" – sparking a massive police manhunt.
Mr Sweeney said there was evidence to show a "hasty attempt to clear out the bomb factory" that night and the following day.
On Friday July 22, pictures of the alleged bombers were published in the media.
That same day, a caretaker at Curtis House noticed an unusually large amount of rubbish in the communal bins. When he investigated further, he found a large number of hydrogen peroxide bottles and called the police.
The trial continues.
The six men all deny charges of conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause explosions likely to endanger life.
Yassin Omar (26), from New Southgate, north London. The jury heard that Omar’s one-bedroom flat at Curtis House was the conspirators’ bomb factory.
Muktar Said Ibrahim (28) from Stoke Newington, north London. Said to have attended, along with Yassin Omar and Adel Yahya, the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London and listened to preacher Abu Hamza.
Ramzi Mohammed (25), from North Kensington, west London. Had written a suicide note, a draft of which was found in pieces after his arrest.
Adel Yahya (24), of High Road, Tottenham. Yahya allegedly took part "in some of the essential preparation done in furtherance of the conspiracy", but left the country nearly six weeks before July 21.
Manfo Kwaku Asiedu (33), of no fixed address. The court heard that Asiedu had bought a large quantity of hydrogen peroxide.
Hussain Osman (28), of no fixed address. Following his arrest in Rome, Osman claimed to police that the plot was not a serious attempt to kill commuters.