Feb. 2, 2011 — -- Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born radical cleric and high-profile member of al-Qaeda, attempted to coordinate an attack on a U.S.-bound airplane with the help of a British Airways insider, prosecutors said in a British court Tuesday.
Bangladeshi national Rajib Karim, a former British Airways employee, is on trial in England for terror-related charges after prosecutors say he plotted with al-Awlaki in 2010 to carry out both cyber and physical attacks against British Airlines passengers, including potentially bringing down a trans-Atlantic flight.
"The defendant was anxious himself to carry out such an attack and he was determined to seek martyrdom - to die and to sacrifice himself for his cause," prosecutor Jonathan Laidlaw said Tuesday, according to the BBC.
Karim pleaded guilty to three terror-related charges, but denied others, including the accusation he plotted to bring down any flights, Laidlaw told the court. Karim, who worked at a call center in Newcastle, England, applied for cabin crew training but was told he didn't have enough experience, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said in open court Tuesday that Karim joined the British airline in 2007 with the intention to carry out terrorist activities from the inside. Karim denied that claim.
In correspondences between Karim and his brother read aloud in court today, Karim reportedly said he had no doubts "whatsoever" that the civilians he lived and worked around were legitimate targets for attack.
"And the more I am mixing with them, the more my conviction is getting stronger [by Allah]," Karim wrote, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors: Plans for 'Total Chaos'
In addition to the alleged plane plot, according to prosecutors, Karim told Al-Awlaki in early 2010 he could disrupt BA's computer system -- potentially causing significant financial loses, damage to hardware and stranding crew and passengers the world over.
It would be "total chaos," Karim said in the messages, according to prosecutors.
Laidlaw told the court Karim was acting as an operative for the Bangladeshi terror group Jamaat-Ul Mujahideen Bangladesh.
Al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born radical cleric, is a key leader of Al Qaeda's Yemen branch, Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP). In November, al-Awlaki released a video urging Muslims to murder Americans.
Wanted dead or alive by U.S. officials for his role in inciting terrorist plots against the U.S., he is believed to be hiding in Yemen.
Karim is not the first former airline or airport employee to be accused in a terror plot.
In Feb. 2010, Najibullah Zazi, an airport shuttle bus driver, pleaded guilty to three terrorism charges after he was accused of conspiring to detonate an explosive in the New York City subway system.
Russell Defreitas, one of the men convicted in the failed 2007 plot to bomb JFK airport, was reportedly previous employed by Evergreen airlines.
The Associated Press and BBC News contributed to this report.