A British Muslim accused of planning a transatlantic airline bomb plot told a court he carried out research on the internet to identify Birmingham International Airport as a possible target.
Assad Sarwar, 28, admitted purchasing and hiding materials to manufacture an explosive device designed to have the “hallmark of an al Qaida attack”.
But he insisted the plan, devised with co-defendant Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, was intended as a publicity stunt against foreign policy and did not seek to cause carnage.
Giving evidence in his defence at Woolwich Crown Court, Sarwar maintained the use of the volatile chemical hydrogen peroxide in the bottle device was to give the protest authenticity.
He told the court he travelled to Wales in April 2006 and used a false name to buy hydrogen peroxide from Health Leads UK.
Sarwar described how he conducted research on the internet into possible targets, including the Houses of Parliament and Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Birmingham airports.
During a trip to Pakistan between mid June and early July 2006 Sarwar met a contact who told him how to make highly-explosive chemical compound HMTD and he made a note of it.
He said he hid the hydrogen peroxide left in its packaging in King’s Wood, High Wycombe, but later could not find it.
Sarwar told the court by July 15, 2006, he and Ali were keen to progress their plan and continued to buy materials.
He made a second trip to Wales buying 10 litres of hydrogen peroxide at 35 per cent concentration. However, he discussed with Ali the difficulty of buying specialist equipment which usually supplied laboratories directly.
Sarwar told the court he purchased three voice disguisers. He said they intended to phone police stating al Qaida were responsible and planned “to say other devices were planted to cause more panic and alarm to get the most mass media attention.”
Eight men are on trial accused on conspiring to murder and endanger aircraft. Prosecutors claim the men planned to smuggle improvised liquid bombs disguised as soft drinks on board and detonate them.
They deny the offences.
The defendants are: Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, of Prospect Hill, Walthamstow, east London, Assad Sarwar, 28, of Walton Drive, High Wycombe, Bucks; Tanvir Hussain, 27, of Nottingham Road, Leyton, east London; Mohammed Gulzar, 26, of Priory Road, Barking, east London; Ibrahim Savant, 27, of Denver Road, Stoke Newington, north London; Arafat Waheed Khan, 27, of Farnan Avenue, Walthamstow; Waheed Zaman, 24, of Queen’s Road, Walthamstow; and Umar Islam, aka Brian Young, 30 of Bushey Road, Plaistow, east London.
Sarwar told the court how, in a discussion with Ali in late July 2006 about the progress of their plan, Ali expressed concerns about surveillance.
The pair made a trip by car to a Muslim cemetery so Ali could prove they were being followed and when nothing happened Sarwar said he told Ali he was “being paranoid”.
He said: “We decided to postpone the event. The best course of action was to purchase the rest of the equipment and chemicals then hide them.”
Sarwar said he later visited King’s Wood to find a suitable place to bury a suitcase of materials. He said he attempted to dig a hole on August 1, but found the ground very hard, so returned home.
However, he said he found an ideal place near a tree on visiting the wood the next day. Sarwar told the jury he was first introduced to co-defendant Mohammed Gulzar, 26, on July 29, 2006 through a contact connected with a charity he had previously worked with in Pakistan aiding refugees.
He said he met up with Gulzar who had asked for help in obtaining a British passport. Sarwar told him he had a friend in the north of England who might be able to help, but Gulzar had “got agitated” and mentioned he was wanted by police in Birmingham.
Sarwar met up with Ali on August 3 to collect the home-made suicide videos the pair planned to combine with other internet footage to make an anti-government documentary to release alongside their intended device explosion.
He said during a further meeting on August 4, Ali had mentioned he was “looking at Heathrow Airport” and the idea of “setting off small devices there.”
Sarwar said: “I thought bins and toilets would be a good idea, but I didn’t go into detail.”
During a further meeting between the pair on August 6, Sarwar said he told Ali he needed his camera to produce their intended DVDs and Ali replied he would give it to him with the remaining “suicide” video.
He told the court that on the day of his arrest – August 9 – he had made further purchases of materials from hydroponics firms.
Asked by officers on his arrest at Walthamstow town hall with Ali that night if he had anything dangerous in his car, Sarwar said he replied “only the handbrake”.
The trial continues.