Life Imprisonment for Al-Qaida Operative who Targeted Financial Infrastructure

Nov. 7, 2006
34-year-old terrorist had targeted NYSE, World Bank, IMF, Citigroup

An al-Qaida operative captured in Britain planned to bomb the New York Stock Exchange and plotted a series of murderous attacks on London, including a scheme to blow up a London subway train as it passed below the River Thames, prosecutors said Monday.

Dhiren Barot, 34, pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to commit mass murder in terrorist plots on both sides of the Atlantic. He faces a life sentence in Britain but he also is wanted in the United States and Yemen on separate terror-related charges.

The Muslim convert and a gang of seven alleged accomplices spent more than four years making detailed plans to attack a host of financial industry targets in the United States, while also plotting to detonate limousines packed with explosives in the underground garages of famous London hotels and train stations.

Prosecutor Edmund Lawson said the group had proposals to use a radioactive "dirty bomb" and to ignite a gasoline tanker, ramming it into a high-profile British target.

Lawson showed clips of a reconnaissance video taken during a 2001 visit to New York by Barot.

The shaky footage - shown on large screens in the courthouse - zoomed in on the World Trade Center as an unseen man mimicked the sound of an explosion. However, prosecutors said Barot did not have prior knowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed an estimated 2,973 people.

"It is memorable for its macabre prophecy," Lawson said at the two-day sentencing hearing at the high-security Woolwich Crown Court in south London.

He said from 1995 Barot had trained at terrorist camps in Pakistan, the disputed territory of Kashmir, Malaysia and the Philippines - crisscrossing the globe to refine skills with weapons, bomb-making and chemicals.

From 2000, Barot plotted for a "memorable black day for the enemies of Islam," Lawson said, claiming he was a member or close associate of al-Qaida.

Flanked by two court guards, Barot sat expressionless behind a glass-walled dock, taking copious notes as Lawson detailed the case against him.

Born in India but raised in Britain since 1972, Barot became the "organizer of major terrorist activity designed to strike at the very heart of both America and the United Kingdom," Lawson said.

He said the suspect's plans were designed to kill "hundreds if not thousands of innocent people without warning."

In August 2000 and March 2001, Barot traveled on two reconnaissance trips to the United States - visiting an aunt in New Jersey both times, Lawson said.

Plans outlining details of the U.S. attacks were found on a computer after Barot's arrest in August 2004, prosecutors said. The 80 minute New York reconnaissance film was spliced into a videotape copy of "Die Hard With A Vengeance," Lawson said.

The film also contained shots of entrances, exits and security barriers at the New York Stock Exchange and the Citigroup headquarters.

Prosecutors said Barot's targets included the World Bank headquarters and the International Monetary Fund, both in Washington, the Citigroup buildings in New York and the Prudential building in Newark, N.J.

Four computer files found by investigators had been drawn up like "business plans," setting out detailed cases for attacking different U.S. financial sector targets, Lawson said. The proposals each had blueprints and photographs of the buildings, suggested attack methods and ideas on how a terrorist could gain access.

Barot is wanted in the United States on charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction. Under British law, domestic proceedings take precedence over an extradition. He also is wanted in Yemen for the 1988 kidnappings of Westerners.

Under the alias Issa al-Britani, Barot was named in the report of the U.S. commission into the Sept. 11 attacks, as an associate of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged planner. It said Mohammed had ordered al-Britani to identify bombing targets in New York.

The Associated Press, The British Broadcasting Corp., and Times Newspapers Ltd. successfully challenged a court ruling that threatened to prevent news media reporting details of Barot's sentencing hearing.

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