LONDON (Reuters) - An Islamist cell tried to carry out suicide bombings on London's transport system just two weeks after attacks that killed 52 people and wounded about 700, a prosecutor said on Monday.
The "extremist Muslim plot" was not a hastily arranged copycat scheme but a long-planned operation, chief prosecutor Nigel Sweeney said as six British men went on trial over the failed attacks of July 21, 2005.
He said the attackers aimed to cause maximum injury by detonating home-made bombs packed with metal, which they carried in rucksacks onto the public transport system.
Their selection of targets -- three underground trains and a bus -- echoed those in the deadly attacks by four young British Muslims who blew themselves up in London just two weeks earlier, on July 7, 2005.
The failed second set of attacks caused panic and triggered a huge manhunt, leaving Londoners unclear at the time if they were a botched and quickly assembled attempt to imitate the original carnage.
But Sweeney told the high-security Woolwich Crown Court: "The evidence in this case shows that this conspiracy had been in existence long before the events of July 7."
The six men, all originally from Africa and in their 20s, are charged with planning to set off explosives on three underground trains and a bus in London on July 21.
Sweeney said the 9th-floor flat of defendant Yassin Hassin Omar in north London was the bomb-making factory. The detonator was triacetone triperoxide (TATP) and the main charge was held in buckets surrounded by screws, tacks, washers and nuts.
"The purpose is, of course, to increase fragmentation when the bomb explodes and maximise the possibility of injury, fatal or otherwise, to those in the vicinity," Sweeney told the court.
FAILED TO EXPLODE
Sweeney said the 5 kg bombs were made of hydrogen peroxide, nail varnish and flour used to make chapatis, or unleavened bread. They were carried in rucksacks with wires connected to the detonators hidden under clothing.
He said four of the defendants successfully fired their TATP detonators but the main charge failed to explode, possibly because the proportion of hydrogen peroxide was not quite right.
TATP is an explosive chemical which can be made from commonly available household products. Nicknamed "Mother of Satan", it is highly volatile and liable to explode prematurely if subjected to friction, impact or change of temperature.
The suspected July 21 plot sparked one of Britain's biggest manhunts and all the main suspects on trial were apprehended just over a week after the failed attacks.
Muktah Said Ibrahim, Manfo Kwaku Asiedu, Hussein Osman, Yassin Hassin Omar, Ramzi Mohammed and Adel Yahya are all charged with conspiracy to murder.
The prosecutor said Osman had told police after being arrested in Italy that the bombings were a deliberate hoax to make a political point. Sweeney rejected the "hoax" defence.
Sweeney said Mohammed was seen trying to set off his bomb facing a woman with a pushchair and was wearing a top with New York on it, "no doubt connected with the events of 9/11".
He said home-made films featuring images of beheadings and other attacks, including those on Sept. 11 in New York, were found in the defendants' flats.
They are also accused of "conspiracy to cause explosions likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property".
Asiedu also faces the charge of "possessing an explosive substance with intent" in connection with a device police said had been abandoned in a park a few days later.
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