Eleven men were sentenced to as much as life in prison for planning a U.K. terror attack meant to be more devastating than the 2005 bombings of London buses and trains.
Irfan Naseer, 31, identified as the ringleader of the group by prosecutors, was sentenced to at least 18 years in prison at a hearing in London today, West Midlands Police said in a statement. Rahin Ahmed, 26, who gambled away the group’s funds on currency and oil trades, was sentenced to 12 years.
“The only barrier between Naseer’s team and mass murder was the intervention of the authorities,” Judge Richard Henriques said when issuing the sentences, according to police.
Members of the group, which planned to destroy multiple targets with eight bombs hidden in backpacks, traveled to Pakistan and recorded suicide videos before their arrest in September 2011, prosecutors said in court documents. U.K. courts are grappling with terrorist cases as U.S. authorities deal with the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, which left three people dead last week.
“Their aim was clear,” Marcus Beale, assistant chief constable at West Midlands Police, said in an e-mailed statement. “To cause death and mass casualties.”
Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali, both 28, were sentenced to 18 and 15 years, respectively, for their central roles in the plot, police said. The remaining seven men were handed terms ranging from six years to 40 months in prison.
Ahmed lost 62 percent of the 14,550 pounds ($22,500) meant to finance the terror cell on small-volume currency trades over four weeks in 2011. He pleaded guilty to terror offenses at a hearing in August.
Ahmed’s use of the financial markets to boost the group’s fortune was the first incident of its kind, West Midlands Police said.
The men, all from Birmingham, central England, raised thousands of pounds posing as fake Muslim Aid charity workers collecting money from the public, prosecutors said at a four-month trial that ended in February.
The surveillance operation, according to police the largest U.K. terrorist investigation since 2006, secretly recorded conversations in which the men said the attack would be “another 9/11,” and “revenge for everything,” prosecutors said in court documents.
The men also compared themselves to characters from the “Four Lions,” a British comedy film released in 2010 about four would-be terrorists in northern England.