Six men pleaded guilty Tuesday to planning a terrorist attack that failed only because the far-right rally they were targeting in central England ended before they arrived.
Police discovered the plot after searching the men’s car following a routine traffic check. Inside the trunk was a cache of weapons that included machetes, knives, sawed-off shotguns and at least one crude bomb packed with nails.
The six men’s guilty pleas came just days after the sentencing of another group of aspiring Islamic terrorists in Britain. In that case, the plotters were planning an attack intended to rival the 2005 transit bombings in London that killed 52 people. The ringleader of the group was sentenced to life in prison.
The defendants in both cases are from the Birmingham area in central England, although the two plots do not appear to have been related.
The six men who entered guilty pleas in a London court Tuesday had decided to go on a rampage through a June 30, 2012, rally conducted by a far-right anti-Muslim group, the English Defense League, police said. The plotters drove to the rally site with their weapons in tow but arrived to find that the gathering had broken up earlier than expected because one of the featured speakers didn’t show up.
Bereft of a target, the six frustrated attackers left. But they were stopped on the highway as part of a random traffic check, and the car was impounded because it was not insured.
Two days later, police found the weapons in the trunk and launched a manhunt for the suspects, who were arrested shortly thereafter.
“The explosives were clearly capable of maiming individuals and would’ve caused considerable injuries, if not death,” Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale of the West Midlands Police told Sky News. “They had some sawn-off shotguns. … They were capable of killing people. I think that their intent was definitely to cause a significant event that would’ve transmitted lots of fear and anxiety amongst our community.”
The defendants were named as Omar Mohammed Khan, Jewel Uddin, Mohammed Hasseen, Mohammed Saud, Zohaib Kamran Ahmed and Anzal Hussain. British news reports said all six were in their 20s.
They were charged with planning a terrorist attack. Hasseen was also charged with possession of an al-Qaida-linked magazine, Inspire, that carried instructions on how to build a pipe bomb.
Authorities found a note in the car trunk explaining the would-be attackers’ motives. It called Queen Elizabeth II a non-Muslim “female devil” bent on “fooling a nation of blind sheep” and labeled the English Defense League as “enemies of Allah” who deserved to die for blaspheming Islam.
The six men are to be sentenced later.