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Context of 'April 28, 2004: Alleged Plotters in Rome Cyanide Bomb Plot Acquitted'

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Tunnels under the US embassy in Rome.Tunnels under the US embassy in Rome. [Source: BBC]Four Moroccans are arrested in Rome in possession of several pounds of a cyanide compound. In addition, police find a map marked with the location of a water main in central Rome. When news of the arrest is leaked to the Italian media on the following day, there are widespread fears of a plot to poison Rome’s water supply. The press speculates that the men may be linked to al-Qaeda. The US embassy in Rome may also have been a target, says an embassy spokesman. In the following days, five more men, also from Morocco, are arrested. However, within days the cyanide compound is identified as potassium ferro-cyanide, which has many agricultural and industrial uses. An official says it could not have been used to poison the water supply. Following the initial arrest, Italian authorities inspect public utility tunnels in central Rome and find a hole in one of them near the US embassy. Police say that they suspect the plotters had planned a bomb attack against the embassy. The potassium ferro-cyanide, although harmless in itself, may have been used to produce a toxic gas if heated, investigators say. According to a police expert, “A toxic cloud would have formed and spread through the tunnels under the center of Rome.” The nine suspects are held without bail pending trial, but will be later acquitted (see April 28, 2004). [BBC News, 2/20/2002; BBC News, 2/21/2002; BBC News, 2/24/2002; New York Times, 2/25/2002; Time, 2/25/2002; New York Times, 2/26/2002; New York Times, 2/27/2002]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Nine Moroccan men accused of plotting an attack on the US embassy in Rome in 2002 are acquitted. Initial reports said that the suspects were planning to detonate a cyanide gas bomb in a utility tunnel near the embassy, or to poison Rome’s water supply (see February 19, 2002), but the case unraveled at the trial. The cyanide compound found with some of the suspects was found to be a ferro-cyanide, a harmless substance used in gardening and photography. A map described as showing a water main near the US embassy in fact indicated a restaurant. Also, a hole found in a utility tunnel near the embassy turned out to be too small for anyone to pass through. No links to al-Qaeda were established. [BBC News, 4/28/2004; New York Times, 3/17/2007]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A jury at Woolwich Crown Court in London, England, convicts the three alleged ringleaders of a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners (see August 10, 2006). However, some of their alleged accomplices are acquitted on some or all charges. The three men, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, Tanvir Hussain, and Assad Sarwar, are convicted of plotting to kill thousands of people by blowing up planes flying from London to the US with home-made liquid bombs disguised as drinks. This is the second trial on the case. At a previous trial, the three main defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to murder, but the jury was unable to decide whether the plans included detonating the bombs on the planes. One of the accomplices, Umar Islam, is convicted of conspiracy to murder, but the jury fails to reach a verdict on whether he was involved in the plot to blow up aircraft. Three others, Ibrahim Savant, Arafat Khan, and Waheed Zaman, are found not guilty of plotting to bomb aircraft, and the jury fails to reach a verdict on more general conspiracy to murder charges against them. It is unclear whether prosecutors will request another trial for these charges. An eighth man, Donald Stewart-Whyte, is cleared of all charges, and his lawyers call for an inquiry into why he was prosecuted. [BBC, 9/7/2009]

Entity Tags: Ibrahim Savant, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, Arafat Khan, Donald Stewart-Whyte, Tanvir Hussain, Waheed Zaman, Assad Sarwar, Umar Islam

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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