By Alessandra Prentice
LONDON, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Three British men planned to detonate rucksacks packed with explosives in a major suicide assault which could have been more devastating than coordinated attacks that killed more than 50 people in London in 2005, a court heard on Monday.
Prosecutor Brian Altman told the jury the defendants had planned to set off up to eight rucksack bombs in a suicide attack and possibly set off bombs on timers in crowded areas.
"One of them even described a plan to cause another 9/11," he added, referring to the 2001 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."
More than 50 people died in the July 7, 2005 attacks when 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 plot, jurors at Woolwich Crown Court 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 NATO-forces in Afghanistan.
The trio were among several arrested by counter-terrorism police in the city of Birmingham in central England which 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 the militant group al Qaeda.
Altman said two of them of 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.