Nine Islamists, who admitted an al-Qaeda-inspired plot to bomb London’s stock exchange and set up a militant training camp in Pakistan, were sentenced at a British court to a total of 120 years’ imprisonment on Thursday.
The men, mainly British nationals and all with Bangladeshi or Pakistani backgrounds, were arrested in 2010 after security services overheard two of them discussing how to build a pipe bomb based on instructions in a downloaded al-Qaeda magazine.
The plan had been to plant a potentially lethal pipe bomb in a toilet in the London Stock Exchange, with the intention of causing “terror, property damage and economic damage,” a judge said during sentencing at Woolwich Crown Court in south London.
Three others had been trying to raise funds to build a madrasah, or Islamic school, in Kashmir where British Muslims could go to receive firearms training.
“This was a serious, long-term venture in terrorism ... to establish and maintain a terrorist training facility ... to recruit young British Muslims to go there and train, thereafter being available to commit terrorism abroad and at home,” the judge said.
The men had also considered sending a letter bomb to the US embassy in London and other addresses in the capital, as well as planting bombs in pubs, prosecutors said.
The convictions come just months before London hosts the Olympic Games, where Britain is spending more than ￡1 billion (US$1.6 billion) on security.
The judge said the men were “lone wolf terrorists,” acting as an independent group using al-Qaeda material distributed over the Internet.
The nine men waved and gave a thumbs-up gesture to supporters in the court gallery as they were led away.
Britain has been a target for many years, with its role in Iraq and Afghanistan as a leading US ally increasing the threat from Islamic militants.
In July 2005, the day after London was awarded this summer’s Games, four young British Islamists killed 52 commuters in suicide bomb attacks on the city’s transport network.