LONDON (Reuters) - Three militants planned to detonate explosives in rucksacks and ram a car fixed with blades into a crowd of people in Britain in a major assault that could have been more devastating than the 2005 attacks in London, a court heard on Monday.
Prosecutor Brian Altman told the jury the defendants had planned to cause mayhem in an unspecified location by igniting up to eight rucksack bombs in a suicide attack and possibly detonating bombs on timers in crowded areas.
"One of them even described a plan to cause another 9/11," he added, referring to the 2001 al Qaeda attacks in the United States in which some 3,000 people were killed.
"The police successfully disrupted a plan to commit an act or acts of terrorism on a scale potentially greater than the London bombings in July 2005, had it been allowed to run its course."
Jurors at Woolwich Crown Court were also told that the trio had discussed various ways of killing people such as with weapons, poisons or by attaching blades to the side of a vehicle and driving it into a crowd of people.
More than 50 people died in the July 7, 2005 attacks when Islamist militants blew themselves up on London's subway and bus network during the morning rush hour.
Irfan Naseer, 31, Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali, both 27, were central figures in the latest plot, jurors were told. All three have pleaded not guilty.
Naseer is accused of five terrorism offences, Khalid four and Ali three, all alleged to have taken place between Christmas Day 2010 and September 2011.
From their glass-fronted dock, the accused listened in silence to the charges. Naseer smiled into his beard when Altman described how his friends used to call him "Chubbs".
His co-defendants listened intently, whispering to each other occasionally and shaking their heads as if disagreeing with what was being said.
Security remains a concern in ethnically diverse Britain, which backed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and still has troops deployed alongside other NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The trio were among several arrested by counter-terrorism police in the city of Birmingham in central England, a region that is home to a large number of Asian Muslims.
Altman described the accused as "jihadists and extremists" who were influenced by a man affiliated with al Qaeda.
Altman said two of them had travelled to Pakistan, where they learned how to make poison and bombs and use weapons as part of their training. He told the court that they had prepared "martyrdom videos" in anticipation of their suicide campaign.
Altman told the jury they had begun experimenting with the construction of home-made bombs and timed detonation devices, adding they tried to recruit others to join their cause.
The court also heard how all three men had posed as street collectors for a Muslim charity to raise funds fraudulently for their cause.
The trial continues.
Additional reporting by Stephen Addison Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Mark Heinrich