ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
In Britain today, five men were sent to prison 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.
As NPR's Rob Gifford reports from London. 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.
ROB GIFFORD: A British 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, who are all from Pakistani immigrant families, Judge Michael Astill called them cruel, ruthless misfits. He told them you have received and taken advantage of the benefits that this society offered you, 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.
Mr. PETER CLARKE (Britain's Anti-Terrorism Chief): If these men had succeeded in achieving their objectives, there's no doubt at all that the carnage would have been immense. We just have to look at the sort of targets they were considering - nightclubs, shopping centers. They are not a group of young idealists. These are dedicated terrorists. Most of them had been to training camps in Pakistan sometime before they hatched this plot here in the U.K.
GIFFORD: The minister in charge of security, Home Secretary John Reid, praised the police for their work. But opposition parties and survivors of the London bombings of July 7, 2005 today increased their demands for a public inquiry into those deadly attacks. It was revealed during this trial that British Security Services had seen two of the four July 7th bombers meeting with some of the men convicted today. The Security Services had discounted the two men because they were not involved in the plot being investigated. Rachel North(ph) survived one of the London bombings.
Ms. RACHEL NORTH (Survivor, London Bombing in 2005): There were very, very great many questions that need answering about what happened before July 7th, what happened on and off since July 7th and in particularly the links between the current plotters who were of course were sentenced and the two men who went on to kill.
GIFFORD: John 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. Lord Stevens was head of London's police force at the time of the arrest.
Mr. LORD STEVENS (Former London Police Chief): That particular time, those who need to watch over a thousand people, and you have to make decisions and prioritize those decisions. Now, sometimes, you're going to get this wrong and this is where you can't sleep at night, if you're in the police service, anti-terrorism work or in the Security Services. I'm afraid you can't follow everybody. We just don't have the resources for that.
GIFFORD: Police say there are still many militant Islamist cells active in Britain. As for the five men jailed today, the judge told them the sentences are for life, some or all of you may never be released.
Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.