WASHINGTON (AP) - Three men have been indicted on charges they plotted to attack financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and Washington.
A four-count indictment unsealed Tuesday accuses Dhiran Barot, Nadeem Tarmohammed and Qaisar Shaffi of scouting the New York Stock Exchange and Citicorp Building in New York, the Prudential Building in Newark, N.J., and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in the District of Columbia.
The three men, already in custody in England, were charged with three conspiracy counts and providing material support to terrorists.
"They are indicted here and whether or not they actually ever are extradicted here I guess is a matter of discussion," said New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. "But I think it's important, both substantively and symbolically important, that you come here, you do this type of surveillance, we're not going to forget."
U.S. officials claim that Barot is a senior al-Qaida figure, known variously as Abu Eisa al-Hindi, Abu Musa al-Hindi and Issa al-Britani, who scouted prominent financial targets in the United States at the behest of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
Prosecutors say the men conducted surveillance on the buildings between August 2000 and April 2001, including video surveillance in Manhattan around April 2001. U.S. officials have previously described detailed surveillance photos and documents, which they believe came from Barot, that were found on a computer that was seized in Pakistan last summer.
That information prompted the government, in August, to raise the risk of a terrorist attack to "high" for those specific financial institutions. The color-coded threat level for the rest of the nation remained at yellow, or elevated, the middle of a five-point scale.
Federal authorities, who acknowledged the threat was based mainly on years-old intelligence, said the decision to raise the threat level was based on an abundance of caution and because of the lengthy planning and plotting record of the terrorist network known as al-Qaida.
The decision was made during a summer of unease over the possibility that terrorists might launch attacks on the political conventions or otherwise try to disrupt the presidential election. In March, bombs on trains in Madrid killed 191people days before Spanish elections.
Critics ascribed the elevated threat level to political calculations by the Bush administration.
The threat level was lowered to yellow for the buildings in November.
The men were among eight people arrested in England on terrorism-related charges in August.
Barot, 32, was charged there with possessing reconnaissance plans for the U.S. institutions and notebooks containing information on explosives, poisons, chemicals and related matters "of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism."
Tarmohammed, 26, was charged there, along with Barot, with possessing plans of the Prudential building. Shaffi, 25, also was charged in Britain with possessing an extract from the "Terrorist's Handbook" on the preparation of chemicals, explosive recipes and other information.
The U.S. intends to seek their extradition once the British prosecutions are completed, Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said.
Their trial in England is expected to begin in January, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.