A British undercover officer infiltrated a jihadi group and scuppered their plan to join Islamic State in Syria, a court heard.
Anas Abdalla, Mahamuud Diini and Gabriel Rasmus left their homes in Birmingham intent on joining the terrorist organisation in the war-torn country, the Old Bailey heard.
But on April 3 last year, they were arrested after being discovered hiding in the back of a lorry at the Kent port of Dover.
Somalia-born Abdalla and Diini, both 26, are on trial accused of preparing for acts of terrorism while jurors were told Rasmus, 29, has previously admitted the charge.
However, Abdalla and Diini deny their covert bid to get out of the UK had anything to do with terrorism.
In a defence statement, Abdalla, an IT technician and former asylum seeker, said the secret services had made his life in Britain "intolerable" and his university career, job prospects and financial affairs in the UK had been "adversely affected".
Part-time labourer Diini, a Dutch national, said in his statement that he had rebuffed attempts by MI5 to recruit him.
He stated that his brother Ahmed had been arrested and tortured in Egypt and he was on his way to find him in Turkey after his release.
According to Diini, British secret services had also tried to recruit Ahmed as a "human intelligence source".
But prosecutor Sally Howes QC told jurors: "The evidence you will hear during this trial will show that their intention was to join forces with Islamic State to offer their services, together with their lives if needs be, to engage in acts of terrorism."
She told how the three young men had been observed preparing for their trip and an undercover officer "Muhamed" had befriended them and secretly recorded their conversations.
Muhamed initially met Rasmus who was a "subject of interest" to police and went on to spend time with both Abdalla and Diini, the court heard.
During meetings, Rasmus had repeatedly referred to "being out there" in Syria and told the officer about his earlier attempts to go, Ms Howes said.
Abdulla spoke about feeling "dirty" doing his IT job and allegedly said: "September 11 was so good."
On March 29, Muhamed picked up Rasmus and Abdalla who tells him they were waiting for "zero hour".
Two days later, Rasmus allegedly told the undercover officer he may need a lift to London "today or tomorrow".
On April 1, while in Muhamed's vehicle, Abdalla said: "Paradise, paradise, I swear to God I cannot wait," the court heard.
During the same journey, Rasmus told Muhamed that he wished he would come with them, the prosecutor said.
On April 2 they returned to Birmingham following a first failed attempt to leave in the back of a lorry and they told Muhamed they had paid £900 and needed the money back.
Abdalla, of Fox Hollies Road, Acocks Gardens, Birmingham, and Diini, of Coventry Road, Small Heath, Birmingham, deny the charge against them and the trial continues.