Three Al-Qaeda -inspired extremists of Pakistani origin who were convicted last week of plotting to blow up U.S.-bound flights leaving Heathrow airport were on Monday jailed for life with their “leader” Abdulla Ahmed Ali (28) ordered to serve at least 40 years.

The other two — Assad Sarwar (29) and Tanvir Hussain (28) — were sentenced to 36 years and 32 years respectively.

The men showed no emotion as the Judge Henriques read out the sentences describing the plot as “the most grave and wicked conspiracy ever proven within this jurisdiction”.

He said their aim was to perpetrate a terrorist outrage that “would stand alongside the events of September 11, 2001” and the evidence established “beyond question the ultimate control of this conspiracy lay in Pakistan.”

Stating that the plot had “reached an advanced stage”, the judge concluded: “I’m satisfied that there is every likelihood that this plot would have succeeded but for the intervention of the police and the security service….Had this conspiracy not been interrupted, a massive loss of life would almost certainly have resulted…”

The trio was among eight men arrested following the discovery of the plot in August 2006 sparking a nationwide alert and enhanced security measures at airports and on planes.

Last week , a jury found them guilty of conspiring to cause mid-air explosions by triggering bombs disguised as drinks. This was the second time that the men were tried as a jury in a previous trial was not able to reach a verdict.

During the trial, prosecution claimed that the plot was inspired by Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and was intended to cause “mass murder”.

The accused admitted to conspiring to cause explosions to highlight the “injustices” against Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon but denied that they wanted to kill anyone.

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