The 2004 financial buildings plot
was a plan led by Dhiren Barot
Dhiren Barot is a convicted terrorist from the United Kingdom.-Background:...
to attack a number of targets in the U.S. and the United Kingdom which is believed to have been approved by al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...
The law of evidence encompasses the rules and legal principles that govern the proof of facts in a legal proceeding. These rules determine what evidence can be considered by the trier of fact in reaching its decision and, sometimes, the weight that may be given to that evidence...
against the plotters consisted of home videos, written notes, and files on computers. At the time of the arrests the group had no funding, vehicles, or access to bomb-making equipment.
All eight suspects have pleaded guilty. One of the men, Dhiren Barot, pleaded guilty early on and was sentenced to 40 years in jail. The trials of seven co-defendants began in April and May 2007.
The plot and evidence
The plots which were uncovered were in the form of proposals found on a laptop seized in Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...
, notebooks and videos found in the possession of the suspects after their arrests, and in deleted files on a hard disk.
Although Barot had been under surveillance since 15 June 2004, a counter-terrorism source admitted that there was little or no admissible evidence
Admissible evidence, in a court of law, is any testimonial, documentary, or tangible evidence that may be introduced to a factfinder—usually a judge or jury—in order to establish or to bolster a point put forth by a party to the proceeding...
against him at the time of his arrest on 3 August.
At the time of the arrests, the law required terrorist suspects to be charged or released within 14 days. Due to the difficulty in framing charges against the arrested which required time-consuming searches through hard disks to find evidence for the plots that were planned, the government proposed that this time limit be extended to 90 days.
The plan to blow up financial buildings in the U.S.
The plan was formulated by Barot while he was in New York posing as a student in 2000 and 2001 prior to the September 11 attacks, of which he apparently had no foreknowledge. Barot's targets were the International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund is an organization of 187 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world...
and World Bank
The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...
buildings in Washington, DC, the New York Stock Exchange
The New York Stock Exchange is a stock exchange located at 11 Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, New York City, USA. It is by far the world's largest stock exchange by market capitalization of its listed companies at 13.39 trillion as of Dec 2010...
The Citigroup Center is one of the ten tallest skyscrapers in New York City, United States, located at 53rd Street between Lexington Avenue and Third Avenue in midtown Manhattan...
buildings in New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...
and the Prudential
The Prudential Insurance Company of America , also known as Prudential Financial, Inc., is a Fortune Global 500 and Fortune 500 company whose subsidiaries provide insurance, investment management, and other financial products and services to both retail and institutional customers throughout the...
building in Newark
Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...
, New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...
He wrote a series of detailed reports describing the importance of the targets, the outlines of the buildings, and the logistics of mounting an explosive attack. He also visited and filmed them from the street in a series of short clips that were discovered in the middle of a copy of the movie Die Hard
Die Hard is a 1988 American action film and the first in the Die Hard film series. The film was directed by John McTiernan and written by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza. It is based on a 1979 novel by Roderick Thorp titled Nothing Lasts Forever, itself a sequel to the book The Detective, which...
The images of this evidence have been posted on the web.
The plans appeared to have been shelved after the successful al-Qaeda attacks on those cities on September 11.
There is strong skepticism in several quarters as to whether any of these plots could have gone ahead without arousing suspicion, or were even superficially viable. For instance, no terrorist bombmakers have succeeded in using commercial gas cylinders to collapse a building.
The gas limos project
The most detailed plan was to pack three stretch limousines with commercially available gas canisters and park them in an underground carpark (where a truck bomb wouldn't have fit) for the purpose of inflicting "mass damage and chaos".
No targets were given, but there were indications that hotels and mainline train stations were being considered.
The dirty bomb using smoke detectors project
Barot's proposals for his dirty bomb
A dirty bomb is a speculative radiological weapon that combines radioactive material with conventional explosives. The purpose of the weapon is to contaminate the area around the explosion with radioactive material, hence the attribute "dirty"....
project were inspired by a road accident in France involving a truck carrying 900 smoke detector
A smoke detector is a device that detects smoke, typically as an indicator of fire. Commercial, industrial, and mass residential devices issue a signal to a fire alarm system, while household detectors, known as smoke alarms, generally issue a local audible and/or visual alarm from the detector...
s, which caused concern over possible exposure to the radio-active material contained in them. Barot formulated a plan involving 10,000 smoke detectors either set on fire or placed on top of an explosive device, and worked out a budget requiring £50,000 for material (£5 for each smoke detector) and £20,000 for storage. Calculations suggest that this would have the volume of four telephone boxes and contain only trace quantities of radioactivity.
According to expert evidence supplied by the prosecution during his trial, it could have contaminated as many as 500 people but was unlikely to have caused any deaths.
The plot to blow up trains under the Thames
There was also a plan to set timed explosives on the London Underground
The London Underground is a rapid transit system serving a large part of Greater London and some parts of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Essex in England...
in order to cause the river to flood the lines.
The likely quantity of explosive required to rupture many metres of reinforced concrete and bedrock widely enough to allow water to flow into the tunnel system at any significant rate is so large as to make this a very unrealistic plan.
A group of fourteen men, called the "Luton cell", were arrested in the UK in the Luton
Luton is a large town and unitary authority of Bedfordshire, England, 30 miles north of London. Luton and its near neighbours, Dunstable and Houghton Regis, form the Luton/Dunstable Urban Area with a population of about 250,000....
area on 3 August 2004. Barot was arrested while having his hair cut in a barber shop in north London.
It is believed that the timing of the arrests was driven by the leaking of the identity of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan
Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan is an alleged Al-Qaeda operative and computer expert. Arrested in Pakistan on July 13, 2004, files found on his laptop contained details of a terrorist plot to attack U.S...
, an alleged Al Qaeda double agent and computer expert, to The New York Times
the previous day.
On 17 August 2004, two weeks later, eight men, Barot, Mohammed Naveed Bhatti, Abdul Aziz Jalil, Omar Abdul Rehman, Junade Feroze, Zia Ul Haq, Qaisar Shaffi, and Nadeem Tarmohammed, were handed various charges of conspiracy to murder; conspiracy to commit a public nuisance by the use of radioactive materials, toxic gases, chemicals and or explosives; and possessing a document or record of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism. Barot was seen as the leader of the group, identified as the individual called "Britani" who "Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden was the founder of the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda, the jihadist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks on the United States and numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets...
had sent to the United States 'to case potential economic and Jewish
targets in New York City' for possible attack." Five of the men were released without charge. Matthew Monks was charged with possession of a prohibited weapon, thought to be a Brocock air pistol, and released on bail.
The group had no funding, vehicles or bomb-making equipment, however the incriminating documents included reconnaissance plans of the buildings in the U.S., two notebooks containing information on explosives, poisons, chemicals and related matters, and an extract of the Terrorist's Handbook, all classed as "information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism" under the Terrorism Act 2000.
On 12 April 2005, the U.S. authorities brought charges against three of the men, Dhiren Barot
Dhiren Barot is a convicted terrorist from the United Kingdom.-Background:...
(also known as Esa al-Hindi), Nadeem Tarmohamed, and Qaisar Shaffi. The indictment
An indictment , in the common-law legal system, is a formal accusation that a person has committed a crime. In jurisdictions that maintain the concept of felonies, the serious criminal offence is a felony; jurisdictions that lack the concept of felonies often use that of an indictable offence—an...
accused Barot of being at a jihad training camp in Afghanistan in 1998 and of doing surveillance of targets in the U.S. between 2000 and 2001 while posing as a student. It accused all three men of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction to damage and destroy buildings used in interstate and foreign commerce. When pressed by reporters on the lack of any allegations of a connection to al Qaeda in the indictment in spite of earlier reports that tied Barot directly to the September 11, 2001 attacks
The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks The September 11 attacks (also referred to as September 11, September 11th or 9/119/11 is pronounced "nine eleven". The slash is not part of the pronunciation...
, Deputy Attorney General James Comey said, "I didn't say there is no connection to al Qaeda. I said we have not alleged a connection to al Qaeda in this indictment."
On 12 October 2006, Barot pleaded guilty in a UK court to "conspiring to murder people in terrorist campaigns in Britain and the US." The prosecutor said that evidence had been found on a computer after his arrest which showed plans to carry out explosions designed to kill as many innocent people as possible at the U.S. buildings.
On 7 November, Barot was sentenced to life and told he must serve at least 40 years in jail. He remains locked-down for 19 hours a day in Belmarsh Prison