Al-Qaeda Figure Gets Life for Plots Targeting U.S., Britain
Wednesday, November 8, 2006
LONDON, Nov. 7 -- An al-Qaeda operative who planned to bomb the World Bank in Washington and the New York Stock Exchange as well as other landmarks in the United States and Britain was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday.
Dhiren Barot, 34, a former airline ticket clerk and Muslim convert, was arrested in London in 2004 and pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mass murder.
"You have chosen to use your life to bring death and destruction to the Western world," Judge Neil Butterfield told an impassive Barot in a London courtroom. "You were planning to bring indiscriminate carnage, bloodshed and butchery . . . on a colossal and unprecedented scale." His sentence provides the possibility of parole after 40 years.
According to prosecutors who read from Barot's notes and computer files, Barot was pleased by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and planned to kill hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the United States and Britain to create "another memorable black day for the enemies of Islam."
Concern about his plots led President Bush to heighten security alerts and tighten security at financial buildings in the Northeast in 2004. British police seized documents that included detailed drawings of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other buildings.
Prosecutors said Barot's planned attacks in Britain were more imminent than those in the United States. He was drawing several plans for synchronized attacks in London, including blowing up a subway train as it passed in a tunnel under the Thames River and exploding limousines loaded with gas cylinders near the Savoy, Ritz and other London hotels.
Prosecutor Edmund Lawson said Barot also kept documents in which he said he wanted to add napalm and nails to the bombs to "heighten the terror and chaos."
"I quote Barot's own words," Lawson said. " 'Imagine the chaos that would be caused if a powerful explosion were to rip through here and actually rupture the river itself. This would cause pandemonium, what with the explosions, flooding, drowning, et cetera, that would occur.' "
Lawson said Barot made a detailed proposal to al-Qaeda financiers in Pakistan, laying out, for example, that he wanted to use a six-man team to blow up the limousines.
"The fact that he wanted to do so many things at once was part of his downfall," said Michael Clarke, a terrorism expert at King's College in London. "It was so big that it would have been very difficult to carry out."
Clarke said Barot might be the "most ambitious" al-Qaeda operative captured in Britain, because he was planning a series of attacks that would create public panic.
Barot, who sat expressionless taking notes as evidence was presented against him, was born in India and raised in Britain. He now faces extradition to the United States, where he has been indicted on terror charges, including conspiring to use unconventional weapons to murder.
Barot's attorney, Ian Macdonald, said Barot's plans were "rough" and far from a point at which they could be executed.
But prosecutors said he was determined and thorough, having trained in terror camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries. On a trip to the United States in 2001, they said, he researched and filmed his targets, at one point shooting footage from a tourist helicopter flight over Manhattan. His targets included the Citigroup headquarters in New York and the Prudential building in Newark, N.J.
In the courtroom, Lawson showed clips of a video taken by Barot during a visit to New York. When the camera zoomed in on the World Trade Center's towers, a man is heard mimicking the sound of an explosion. According to the Associated Press, the footage was found spliced into a videotape of the Bruce Willis movie "Die Hard With a Vengeance."
The AP, the BBC and Times Newspapers Ltd. successfully challenged a court ruling that threatened to prevent news media from reporting details of Barot's two-day sentencing hearing, opening the way for the public to hear the details of his terror plot.
The court had originally ruled that publishing details of the case could prejudice trials of seven other defendants linked to Barot who are to be tried next year.
"For well over two years we have been unable to show the British public the reality of the threat they faced from this man. Now they can see for themselves the full horror of his plan," said Peter Clarke, the head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch.