A British would-be al-Qaeda terrorist plotted to carry out a suicide attack at Heathrow airport, targeting passengers returning from Israel and America.

Minh Quang Pham travelled to Yemen in 2011 to train with al-Qaeda with the intention of carrying out an atrocity in his home country, according to the Sunday Times.

He was backed by the terror group’s leader Anwar al-Awlak, who provided Pham, 33, with £5,000 and a “clean” laptop to prepare the attack.

Al-Awlak, who was killed in a US drone strike in 2011, also provided Pham, who was born in Vietnam, with detailed information to build a suicide bomb with the intention of detonating it in the arrivals hall at Heathrow, to coincide with arrivals from Ben Gurion airport.

Pham, from New Cross in south London, was arrested by UK police, charged with five counts of terrorism and extradited to the US. He pleaded guilty in January to the charges.

In a letter written to the judge ahead of sentencing this week, Pham admitted to being “naive” and claimed he had no serious intention to carry out the attack. Rather, he only agreed to his mission as it would mean he could leave Yemen.

He wrote: “I only wanted to leave Yemen and had to accept a foreign operation.” He went on: “I was suffering scabies since February 2011 and with no treatment it had gotten worse by May/June. I was also missing my family and wanted a way out. Accepting whatever they wanted seemed appropriate for me.”

The letter also renounces “all extreme ideology… Al-Qaeda’s action is damaging the image of Islam and I further do not believe they represent true Islamic values”.