Eleven British Muslims were jailed on Friday for planning what a court heard was an al-Qaeda-backed plot to carry out a string of bombings that they hoped would rival 9/11 and the 2005 London attacks.
The conspiracy involved at least six of the plotters travelling to Pakistan for terror training, with the eventual aim of setting off eight rucksack bombs in crowded areas and possibly other timed devices.
Ringleader Irfan Naseer received a life sentence, his right-hand man Irfan Khalid was jailed for 18 years and co-conspirator Ashik Ali was jailed for 15 years by a judge at Woolwich Crown Court in southeast London.
Eight other members of the cell, which had been based in Birmingham, were also sentenced on Friday.
"Your plot had the blessing of al-Qaeda and you intended to further the aims of al-Qaeda," Judge Richard Henriques said as he sentenced the men.
"The only barrier between (Naseer's) team and mass murder was the intervention of the authorities."
The terror cell was heavily influenced by the teachings of American-born al-Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011, police said.
Prosecutors said that the attacks planned by the men would have been the deadliest since the 7July 2005 London bombings, in which 52 people were killed by three Islamist suicide bombers on subway trains and a fourth bomber on a bus.The plot was also the most significant terror plan uncovered in Britain since the 2006 plot to blow up transatlantic airliners using bombs in drinks bottles, police said.