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Rucksack Suicide Bomb Plotters Jailed

A jihadist terror cell which plotted mass murder worse than the July 7 attacks with the blessing of al Qaida has been jailed.

Ringleader Irfan Naseer, 31, was handed a life sentence at Woolwich Crown Court and will serve a minimum of 18 years before he is considered for release.

The rest of the Birmingham gang, which aimed to explode up to eight rucksack bombs in suicide bombings, were sentenced to serve a total of up to 72 years behind bars for their part in the plan.

Police believe it was the most significant terror plot to be uncovered since the 2006 conspiracy to blow up transatlantic airliners using bombs disguised as soft drinks.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Henriques described Nasser as a "skilful bomb-maker" and the group's "leader, driving force and man in charge".

Addressing the defendant, who appeared to mutter under his breath, the judge said: "Clearly nothing was going to stop you, short of intervention of the authorities.

"I have no doubt you would have continued with your plan but for that intervention."

The judge warned the chemistry graduate that although he would be considered for licence in 18 years, a parole board would not release him until he renounced "extremist views".

At the head of the gang with Naseer were his "inseparable" lieutenant Irfan Khalid, 28, and Ashik Ali, also 28, who provided them with a safe house.

Khalid boasted that the attack was going to be "another 9/11", while Naseer was heard agreeing that the July 7 attacks had not done enough damage because there were no nails in the bombs.

Sentencing Khalid to an extended sentence of 23 years and a minimum of 12 behind bars, Mr Justice Henriques said he took into account that Khalid had been found to be in the bottom 2%-5% in terms of cognitive ability.

Partially-sighted Ali, wearing a white robe, was given an extended sentence of 20 years and must serve a minimum of 10 before he can be considered for release on licence.

The judge said he did not accept the defendant's portrayal of himself as the group's "tea boy or runner for others".

In a conversation heard by police, Ali told his estranged wife Salma Kabal, who was cleared earlier this month of withholding information about the plot: "Oh, you think this is a flipping Four Lions. We're one man short."

In February, Naseer was found guilty of five counts of preparation of terrorist acts, Khalid of four, and Ali of three, all between Christmas Day 2010 and September 19 2011.

For Naseer, from Sparkhill, Khalid, from Sparkbrook, and Ali, from Balsall Heath, this included planning a bombing campaign, collecting money for terrorism and recruiting others for terrorism.

Mr Justice Henriques said Naseer bore "sole responsibility" for sending Shahid Khan, 21, Khobaib Hussain, 21, Ishaaq Hussain, 21, and Naweed Ali, 25, to Pakistan for terror training in August 2011.

Three of the youngsters, all from Sparkhill, were forced to return just three days later after relatives got wind of the sinister reasons for their journey.

Sentencing all four to 40 months in prison, of which they will serve a minimum of 20 months, the judge said: "It is a chilling thought that unbeknown to your parents you left this country intending to undergo a period of terror training."

The four had pleaded guilty to engaging in conduct in preparation for terrorist acts by travelling to Pakistan for training in terrorism.

Attempting to fund their plot by posing as Muslim Aid charity street collectors, the group duped legitimate supporters into giving them money.

They raised £12,000 for themselves in this way, but were forced to apply for tens of thousands of pounds in loans after losing more than £9,000 of the money playing foreign currency markets.

"Chief financier" Rahin Ahmed, 26, from Moseley, was sentenced to 17 years and will serve six years before he can be released on licence after he admitted collecting, investing and managing money for terrorism.

Ashik Ali's older brother Bahader Ali, 29, Mohammed Rizwan, 34, and Mujahid Hussain, 21, were also recruited by the cell.

Bahader Ali and Rizwan were said to have been unsure whether to join the "ammal" (action) against "infidels" in the UK or fight abroad, while Mujahid Hussain helped with fundraising.

Today they received sentences of between six and four years in jail for their role in the plot.

From Sparkhill, Rizwan had pleaded guilty to engaging in conduct in preparation for terrorist acts, while Bahader Ali, from Sparkbrook, and Mujahid Hussain, from Yardley, both admitted entering a funding arrangement for the purposes of terrorism.

Bahader Ali also pleaded guilty to collecting information about terrorism and encouraging the preparatory acts of others and Mujahid Hussain admitted having information about acts of terrorism.

The gang were thwarted by the largest investigation ever carried out by the 450-strong counter-terrorism unit, involving 24-hour surveillance and the bugging of the men's safe house.

Mr Justice Henriques said he wanted to ensure that the officers who worked on the case receive a judicial commendation for their "extraordinary" work.