Britain Convicts Five of Plotting Bombings in 2006

In Britain, five men have been sent to jail for life after they were found guilty of plotting al-Qaida-inspired bomb attacks across England. Their planned targets ranged from nightclubs and trains to shopping malls.

The trial has also revealed that police had established links between the gang and two other British Islamists, who went on to kill 52 people in the London transit bombings of July 2005.

The jury decided that five of the seven men standing trial were guilty of planning to use 1,300 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer to make bombs. Passing sentence on the men, all from Pakistani immigrant families, at London's Old Bailey court, Judge Michael Astill called them cruel and ruthless misfits.

"You have received and taken advantage of the benefits that this society offered you," Astill said, "yet you sought to destroy it."

Britain's anti-terrorism chief Peter Clarke said a major terrorist atrocity had been averted with the men's arrest.

"If these men had succeeded in achieving their objectives, there's no doubt at all that the carnage would have been immense," Clarke said. "We just have to look at the sort of targets they were considering; night clubs, shopping centers. They're not a group of young idealists; these are dedicated terrorists."

Home Secretary John Reid praised the police for their work. But opposition parties and survivors of the London bombings of 2005 increased their demands Monday for a public inquiry into those deadly attacks.

It was revealed during the trial that British security services had seen two of the four transit bombers meeting with some of the men convicted Monday. The security services had discounted the two men on the basis that they were not involved in the plot being investigated.

Reid dismissed the call for an inquiry, saying it would divert the energies and efforts of the security services and the police. Senior police officers have also defended their decision to ignore the two London bombers, because at the time they seemed tangential to their investigation.

Police say there are still many active militant Islamist cells at work in Britain.

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