LONDON (Reuters) - Four men were convicted on Monday of plotting to bomb London's transport system on July 21, 2005 in a botched attempt to replicate Islamist suicide bombings that had killed 52 people two weeks earlier.
Police said the men, Muslims of African origin, would have caused carnage on a similar scale to the attacks a fortnight before but although the detonators on their makeshift bombs fired, the main charges failed to explode.
The attacks provoked more panic and fear across Britain, reeling from the most devastating peacetime attack on London, carried out on July 7 by four young Britons -- the first Islamist suicide bombings in western Europe.
The men, Muktah Said Ibrahim, Yassin Hassan Omar, Ramzi Mohammed and Hussain Osman, were found guilty of conspiracy to murder at Woolwich Crown Court in London after a trial lasting almost six months.
The moment Ibrahim and Mohammed tried to detonate their bombs was caught on closed circuit television footage. Mohammed could be seen turning his rucksack, containing the bomb, to face a young mother with a small child just as he detonated it.
The jury, which is still considering verdicts against two other men facing the same charge, was sent home for the day.
Britain has seen a sharp increase in terrorism-related plots since the Sept. 11 strikes on the United States and its decision to join U.S. forces in invading Iraq.
The convictions come just over a week after two car bombs were found in London and a jeep packed with fuel was rammed into a Scottish airport and set alight -- botched attacks that Prime Minister Gordon Brown said were associated with al Qaeda.
The convicted four claimed the bombings were a hoax, not designed to kill but a protest against Britain's involvement in Iraq. The July 7 bombers had said in videos they were punishing Britain for former Prime Minister Tony Blair's polices.
HYDROGEN PEROXIDE, NAIL VARNISH AND FLOUR
Eritrean-born Ibrahim, the self-confessed bomb-maker and the plot's mastermind, said the bombs were deliberately designed not to explode but only to go "pop".
The men were carrying 5 kg homemade bombs made out of 442 litres of hydrogen peroxide, nail varnish and the flour used to make chapatis or unleavened bread.
The detonator was the highly explosive and dangerously volatile triacetone triperoxide (TATP). The bombs were placed in buckets and surrounded by screws, tacks, washers and nuts designed to act as shrapnel and maximise injuries and deaths.
Police and prosecutors said it was just luck that the bombs had not worked, either because the men had mixed the ingredients wrongly, the detonator was not powerful enough or the hot weather had affected the explosives.
Although the plot was hatched many months before, the men had picked out underground trains and a bus as targets to exactly echo the July 7 attacks.
Police launched the country's biggest manhunt for the would-be bombers, who all escaped in the chaotic aftermath, and managed to track them down in just over a week.
Omar, who escaped to Birmingham in central England wearing his mother-in-law's burka, was found standing in a bath wearing a rucksack. Armed police overpowered him after a violent struggle and said he was lucky not to have been shot.
Mohammed and Ibrahim were held at a flat in west London, with TV cameras capturing their dramatic arrest by armed officers using stun grenades as they were forced onto a balcony wearing only underpants.
Osman fled the country on the Eurostar train service using someone else's passport and was finally arrested in Italy.
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