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3 British men go on trial over alleged terror plot

LONDON — Three young British Muslim men went on trial in London on Monday, accused of plotting to set off multiple bombs in terrorist strikes that prosecutors say could have been deadlier than the 2005 London transit attacks.

Prosecutors allege that the men, fired up by the sermons of a US-born Al Qaeda preacher, hoped to cause carnage on a mass scale. But their plot was undone by mishaps with money and logistics, and ended in a police counterterrorism swoop last year.

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Prosecution lawyer Brian Altman told a jury that Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali, both 27, and Irfan Naseer, 31, were central players in a plan to mount a terrorist attack ‘‘on a scale potentially greater than the London bombings in July 2005.’’

Fifty-two commuters were killed when four Al Qaeda-inspired suicide bombers blew themselves up on London’s bus and subway network on July 7, 2005.

The suspects, who have pleaded not guilty, are among a group of men and one woman arrested in September 2011 in the central English city of Birmingham.

All three defendants are charged with preparing for terrorism by plotting a bombing campaign, recruiting others, and fund-raising. Khalid and Naseer also are accused of traveling to Pakistan for terrorism training. Altman said the plan was to detonate knapsack bombs in a suicide attack, or to explode timer bombs in crowded areas ‘‘to cause mass deaths and casualties.’’

‘‘One of them was even to describe their plan as ‘another 9/11,’ ’’ he said.

Prosecutors say targets and other details had not been finalized when the men were arrested.

Altman said the trio were the senior members of a home-grown terror cell inspired by the anti-Western sermons of US-born Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in Yemen in September 2011.

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