Militants Admit Plan to Bomb London Stock Exchange
Four Islamic militants, all British citizens, admitted involvement on Wednesday in a conspiracy inspired by Al Qaeda to place a bomb in the toilets of the London Stock Exchange, with the hope that the multistory building would catch fire. Five other men involved in the plot pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
Prosecutors said the plot was foiled by the arrest of the nine men, all with family origins in Bangladesh or Pakistan, in December 2010 at their homes in London, Cardiff and the Midlands town of Stoke-on-Trent. They said the men’s plans were discovered after undercover counterterrorism officers tailed them as they surveyed London tourist attractions and tracked their conversations through secret electronic monitoring devices planted in their homes, cars and computers.
The targets scouted or considered by the men, the court was told, included Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the United States Embassy, the homes of the London mayor and the American ambassador, two rabbis and the London Eye, a 440-foot Ferris wheel towering above the River Thames.
The case was part of Britain’s long-running battle against homegrown terrorist plots involving militants born or residing in Britain since the July 7 bombings in 2005 that killed 52 people on three London subway trains and a bus.
The outcome was taken by British counterterrorism experts as a triumph for the elaborate electronic surveillance techniques deployed by the country’s web of intelligence and security agencies. But the case also served as a warning of potential threats as London prepares a security force of nearly 25,000 men and women, including troops, to protect the 2012 summer Olympic Games, which begin in July.
The nine men had been set to plead innocent to terrorism charges but changed their pleas to guilty at the last minute when the judge warned them of the heavy sentences, including up to 13 ½ years for the accused ringleader, if the case went to a prolonged trial. By pleading guilty, legal experts said, the men made themselves eligible for a “discount” of as much as 10 percent in their prison terms when sentenced next week.