Ashes death plot revealed
Fiona Hudson and Mark Dunn
October 09, 2006 12:00am
THE London Tube bombers plotted to kill the Australian cricket team by spraying sarin gas into their change rooms during last year's Ashes series, a friend of the terrorists claims.
Al-Qaida commanders allegedly ordered the suicide bombers to get jobs at Edgbaston Cricket Ground and wipe out the Australian and England players.
They were instructed to release sarin gas, a highly toxic nerve agent that is one of the world's most dangerous chemical weapons.
But cricket-loving terrorist Shehzad Tanweer apparently objected and instead the terrorist cell perpetrated the July 7 underground Tube and bus bombings that killed 56 people and injured more than 700.
Play in the Second Test at Edgbaston, in Birmingham, started as scheduled on August 4 and England went on to win the thriller by two runs and level the series 1-1.
Among the Australian stars using the change rooms were Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist.
The Australian Test team has not been told of the plot.
More than a dozen terrorism suspects have since been arrested in Birmingham over other plots – including plans to blow up more than a dozen passenger flights between Britain and the US.
Sarin gas was first used as a terror weapon by the Aum Supreme cult in a 1995 Tokyo subway attack that killed 12 and left almost 1000 people sick.
Bombers Mohammed Sadique Khan, 30, and Tanweer, 22, are believed to have received the initial instructions to assassinate the Aussies while attending an al-Qaida training camp in Kashmir in December 2004.
Britain's Sunday Times quoted a man using the pseudonym Ahmed Hafiz -- a friend of bus bomber Hasib Hussain who detonated his deadly device at London's Tavistock Square.
Hafiz said he received information about the Ashes plot from members of his extended family who are involved in running the Kashmir terror training camp.
Tanweer and Khan had a fist fight over the cricket plot, he claimed.
"Tanweer had (Khan) in a headlock and the fight had to be broken up," Hafiz said.
Even after it was decided to go ahead with the July 7 attacks, the cricket plot remained as an option.
"It was always there, as Plan B," Hafiz said.
He claimed Khan emerged as the ring-leader of the July 7 bombers after he impressed camp commanders in Kashmir by ceremonially sacrificing a bull.
A senior British anti-terror officer yesterday said police were keen to interview Hafiz.
Cricket Australia spokesman Peter Young said security for the Australian Test was beefed up after the Tube bomb attacks. But the team was never told of the alleged sarin threat.
Paceman Jason Gillespie last night hit back at critics who ridiculed his threat to abandon the Ashes tour because of player safety.
"My words were we would have to consider our options and that wasn't being silly, it wasn't being crazy," he said. "In light of what has come out it was totally justified."
Security expert Neil Fergus, a consultant for the Olympic Games and other major events, said it was unlikely al-Qaida had the ability to effectively use sarin as a mass-casualty weapon.
But if the alleged Birmingham plot turned out to be true, it was an important discovery.
"I think it shows an insight into the targeting methodology al-Qaida and those groups do have," he said.
"Although they do not have the capacity for chemical warfare at this stage, thank God, the fact they were thinking about targeting cricketers is important."
He said interrogations of captured al-Qaida figures had shown their desire to attack major sporting events.
The Australian team had previously cancelled three international tours -- to Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka -- because of domestic security concerns.
After the fact Johnny's have little credibility as far as I'm concerned, it's just a good way for them to spread fear, but that is a fair chilling plot as far as the cricket and sporting worlds in general are concerned.