Terror: Life For Ringleader

The Birmingham ringleader of a terror plot which could have been more devastating than the July 7 attacks has been jailed for life and told he must serve at least 18 years before being considered for release.

Irfan Naseer, 31, must take sole responsibility for ''sending four young men to Pakistan for terrorism training'', Mr Justice Henriques told London's Woolwich Crown Court.

The judge said: ''Irfan Naseer was the leader, driving force and man in charge and he alone must take responsibility for sending four young men to Pakistan for terrorism training.''

Turning to Naseer, who appeared to mutter under his breath during the sentencing hearing, the judge added: ``Your plot had the blessing of al Qaida and you intended to further the aims of al Qaida.''

Mr Justice Henriques, who described Naseer as a ''skilful bomb-maker'', 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.

''Many deaths were planned by a determined team of individuals who were fully radicalised and you, Naseer, were their leader.

''No lack of assets, skill or manpower was going to stop you.''

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.

The gang, who are all from Birmingham, planned to set off up to eight rucksack bombs and possibly other devices on timers in crowded places.

Together with Naseer, the cell was led by his ''inseparable'' friend Irfan Khalid, 28, and Ashik Ali, also 28.

Khalid boasted that the attack was ''another 9/11''.

Sentencing him to an extended term of 23 years in prison and to serve 12 years before he can be released on licence, Mr Justice Henriques said he took into account that he had been found to be in the bottom 2%-5% in terms of cognitive ability.

The judge said Khalid had been under the influence of Naseer, adding: ''The sooner you are separated from him, the better.''

Partially sighted Ali, wearing a white robe, was handed an extended sentence of 20 years in prison and will serve a minimum of 10 years before he can be considered for parole.

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

Naseer was found guilty of five counts of engaging in conduct in 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.

Naseer sent aspiring jihadists Shahid Khan, 21, Khobaib Hussain, 21, Ishaaq Hussain, 21, and Naweed Ali, 25, all from the Sparkhill area, to Pakistan for terror training in August 2011.

But Khobaib Hussain, Ishaaq Hussain and Naweed Ali were forced to return just three days later after a relative got wind of the real reason for their journey.

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

''It is an especially aggravating feature that the four young men were sent without their parents having any knowledge that they were being sent for terrorism training, believing indeed that they were still in the country,'' Mr Justice Henriques told Naseer.

The group tried to fund their plot by posing as Muslim Aid charity street collectors, duping 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, pleaded guilty to collecting, investing and managing money for terrorism, and assisting others to travel to Pakistan for training in terrorism.

He was given an extended sentence of 17 years and will serve six years before he can be released on licence.

Mr Justice Henriques said he accepted that Ahmed was not aware of the details of the plot, but added that he had raised ''money for a terrorist purpose knowing that acts of terrorism were being prepared''.