A British man accused of conspiring with shoe-bomber Richard Reid pleaded guilty Monday to conspiring to blow up a U.S.-bound aircraft in 2001, becoming the first person to be convicted of a terrorist offense in Britain since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
Sajid Badat, 25, from Gloucester, England, was charged with conspiring with Reid, who was convicted in the United States, and with a Belgian to make the explosive device.
"It is clear the plan was that Reid and Badat would bring down a passenger aircraft at similar times in late December that year," prosecutor Richard Horwell said.
Badat pleaded guilty to conspiring between January 1, 1999, and November 28, 2003, to place a device on an aircraft in service. Prosecutors said there was evidence that Badat had lost his nerve and withdrew from the plot.
Reid was arrested after trying to detonate the device aboard an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami on Dec. 22, 2001. He was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to charges in the United States.
Prosecutors said Badat had had received training both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that while in Afghanistan, he was given an explosive device designed to evade airport security and destroy an aircraft in flight.
Badat returned to Britain on Dec. 10, 2001, with the device in his possession. The detonating cords on Reid's device matched the cord on Badat's bomb, prosecutors said.
In October, a U.S. grand jury in Boston charged Badat with attempted murder, trying to destroy an aircraft and other counts related to the alleged conspiracy with Reid, who also is a British citizen and a Muslim convert.
According to that indictment, Badat "admitted that he was asked to conduct a shoe bombing like Reid" when he was arrested in Britain last November. Bomb components similar to Reid's were found at his home, the indictment said.
Police said Belgian telephone cards found on Reid were used by Badat to get in touch with Reid's terrorist contact Nizar Trabelsi, who is now in jail in Belgium.
Trabelsi, a Tunisian who played professional soccer for several German teams, was sentenced to the maximum 10 years in prison in 2003. He had admitted planning to drive a car bomb into the canteen of a Belgian air base where U.S. nuclear weapons are believed to be stored.
Badat sent an e-mail on Dec. 14, 2001, indicating he might withdraw from the plot, Horwell said.
"He had booked a ticket to fly from Manchester to Amsterdam in preparation for an onward flight to the United States on which the explosive device would be initiated.
"But he did not take that flight. We accept by then he had withdrawn from the conspiracy which by then he had been party to for an appreciable period of time," Horwell said.
Badat kept the device at his home in Gloucester, but had separated the fuse and detonator from the plastic explosive, Horwell said.
Acquaintances in Gloucester had described Badat as a quiet, studious young man who had given sermons at a local mosque. Badat's parents reportedly had emigrated from Malawi in 1960s and settled in Gloucester, where Badat was born.
By Robert Barr
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