Even as investigators tried to untangle the complicated web of connections among the suspects in last week's failed car bombings, four Muslim men were convicted of terrorist offenses in two separate trials in Britain on Thursday.
In the first case, 37-year-old Omar Altimimi, who came to Britain from the Netherlands in 2002, was convicted in Manchester of possessing what the prosecution described as a "vast library" of material that included information on how to make explosives, how to detonate bombs remotely and how to set up terrorist cells in Britain.
In the second case, three men in London — one British-born, the others from overseas — were convicted of inciting terrorist murder through extremist Web sites they operated on the Internet, the first conviction of its kind in Britain. The sites included videos of beheadings by insurgents in Iraq, bomb-making instructions and exhortations to commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam.
The investigation into the foiled car-bomb plots has dominated media coverage in the last week, all but drowning out the news of the latest verdicts. In part that is because terrorism trials have become almost commonplace; Britain is awash in them. More than 100 people have recently been convicted, or are currently on trial, awaiting trial or facing verdicts in more than two dozen terrorism-related cases here.
A verdict is expected soon in one of the biggest cases: that of six men accused of the botched suicide bombing attempts on London's subways and buses on July 21, 2005. The failed attacks — in which the bombs did not explode — took place exactly two weeks after the July 7 attacks that killed 56 people, including four of the perpetrators.
Another big case, that of the suspects accused in the audacious plot to use liquid bombs to blow up planes over the Atlantic last summer, has not yet gone to trial.
Meanwhile, seven men were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 15 to 26 years last month for their roles as accomplices to an al-Qaida terrorist planning attacks on targets in Britain and the United States, including the New York Stock Exchange and the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. And in April, five men were found guilty of planning fertilizer-bomb attacks on targets around London, including a major suburban shopping center and a London nightclub.
The sheer number of cases shows how difficult it is for the authorities to keep on top of the activities of would-be terrorists in this country.
While many of the suspects appear to be motivated by the same ideology — hatred of the West and support for violent jihad directed at targets symbolizing what they regard as Western power or decadence — the individual plots are hard to unravel. Relationships are complicated. Suspects work together or individually, with other Britons or people from abroad, often connected by evidence on computers or cell phones that requires painstaking investigation before charges can be brought.
"We are seeing networks within networks, connections within connections, and links between individuals that cross local, national and international lines." Peter Clarke, the senior antiterrorism officer at Scotland Yard, said in a speech in April.