2009: Al-Qaeda’s Western plots


I’ve spent the past couple of weeks covering the trial of Abid Naseer, a Pakistani student convicted of plotting to bomb Manchester’s Arndale Centre. I interviewed his father almost five years ago in Pakistan. The feeling there was that he – and his nine friends – were being discriminated against for nothing more than being Pakistanis in Britain. After all, they were never charged in the UK.

The evidence laid out during the trial suggested otherwise.

The prosecution laid out a story that suggested Naseer was a very highly regarded al-Qaeda operative, trained by Rashid Rauf, for a plot that stretched all the way to Osama bin Laden himself.

But there were holes in the prosecution. They had next to no evidence about what Naseer had been up to in Pakistan during a crucial visit home in 2008 nor any evidence that he had actually met Rauf.

Naseer’s downfall, however, was the undeniable fact that he was emailing an al-Qaeda handler who was also in touch with two other cells – in New York and in Oslo. The diagram above, which I sketched in court, suggests the structure of the plots and how they were connected.

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