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Originally published Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 6:29 PM

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3 British men convicted in terrorist bomb plot

The three, British Muslims from the central English city of Birmingham, were accused of planning to set off as many as eight bombs in backpacks in crowded places as part of a suicide rampage.

Los Angeles Times

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LONDON — Three men accused of plotting what would have been the biggest terrorist attack in Britain since the 2005 London transit bombings were found guilty of terrorism charges Thursday.

The three, British Muslims from the central English city of Birmingham, were accused of planning to set off as many as eight bombs in backpacks in crowded places as part of a suicide rampage. Although no date or target was set for the attack, authorities who secretly recorded conversations among the men arrested them in September 2011 out of concern that they posed an imminent threat.

A search of their apartment turned up components for making bombs and instructions on how to build one, and at least two of the men, inspired by al-Qaida and the Taliban, had gone to Pakistan for training in Islamic terrorist camps, authorities said.

The defendants — Ashik Ali, 27; Irfan Khalid, 27; and Irfan Naseer, 31 — were recorded discussing the potential use of assault rifles and poison, and putting blades on the sides of cars to mow down pedestrians. They expressed hope that their death count would eclipse that of the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings of subway trains and a bus in central London in which 52 passengers and four bombers died.

“They were looking to kill and maim lots and lots of people. They were out to cause some really serious harm,” Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale, of the West Midlands Police, said. “From their own words, they were quite critical of the 7/7 bombers, the fact that they didn’t kill enough people. They wanted this to be their 9/11.”

The three men face life in prison when their sentences are handed down in April or May.

Prosecutors described the men as homegrown terrorists inspired by the anti-Western sermons of U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in Yemen in a U.S. drone strike in September 2011.

The defense tried to portray the plotters as pranksters and braggarts who had no intention of mounting an attack. But prosecutors said the men had prepared “martyrdom” videos, and the jury ultimately rejected the defense lawyers’ characterization of their clients as comical bumblers.

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