LONDON (AP) — Three British men who dubbed themselves the “Three Musketeers” were convicted Wednesday of plotting a bomb attack on troops or police inspired by Islamic extremism.
Jurors at London’s Central Criminal Court found 29-year-old Naweed Ali, 25-year-old Khobaib Hussain and Mohibur Rahman, 33, guilty of preparing terrorist acts, after a trial that was partly held in secret for national security reasons.
A fourth defendant, Tahir Aziz, was convicted of the same charge. Prosecutors say the 38-year-old was brought into the plot in its later stages.
Ali, Hussain and Rahman met while serving prison terms for terrorism offenses, prosecutors said. They later set up a group on a messaging app called the “Three Musketeers.”
As they planned an attack, the men were under surveillance by Britain’s domestic intelligence service, MI5, which created a fake courier company in the central England city of Birmingham and hired Hussein and Ali.
In August 2016, undercover officers searched Ali’s car, and discovered weapons including an imitation handgun, a partially constructed pipe bomb and a meat cleaver with the word “kaffir” — infidel in Arabic — scratched onto the blade.
Prosecutors said the men intended to attack police or military targets.
Defense lawyers criticized the decision to hear from two witnesses in secret as they discussed claims by the defendants that MI5 had tried to recruit them. Rajiv Menon, attorney for Ali and Rahman, said the decision had a “crippling effect on our ability to prepare for trial.”
The months-long trial also came close to collapse when a juror sought to find out whether a police officer in the case was single — a breach of strict jury rules. The judge dismissed one juror, but allowed the trial to continue.
The defendants, from central England, denied the charges and accused police of planting evidence. As they were led from the dock after conviction, one shouted: “I hope you’re happy with your lies! Lying scumbags.”
The four men will be sentenced Thursday.