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Gary Younge
Jury told of missile's effect

A weapons expert explained the precise effect the Russian-made rocket, allegedly smuggled into the US by Hemant Lakhani, from Hendon, would have had.

"It could be catastrophic," said Rodney Routledge, an expert in short-range missiles from the US Defence Intelligence Agency. "It actually causes the wing to crumble and break off and the aircraft will crash. In that case it is unlikely you'd have any survivors."

Mr Lakhani is accused of shipping the Igla Sa-18 missile as a "sample" of a further 200 he said he could supply to an undercover FBI agent posing as a terrorist.

The rocket, similar to that used in an attempt to shoot down an Israeli passenger plane in Kenya in 2002, could be fired from several miles away. "They are capable of destroying virtually any aircraft," said Mr Routledge.

Mr Lakhani denies the charges and claims he was entrapped by American, British and Russian intelligence eager to snare terrorists following the September 11 attacks. If convicted he faces up to 25 years in prison.

Mr Lakhani was arrested in August 2003 at a hotel overlooking Newark airport, moments after allegedly presenting a sample missile to the FBI informant. He has been in custody in New Jersey since his arrest.

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