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Briton Admits to Plotting Attacks on U.S.

Defendant pleads guilty to conspiring to blow up financial buildings. He also acknowledges a role in a scheme to explode a `dirty bomb' in Britain.

October 13, 2006|Kim Murphy | Times Staff Writer

LONDON — A 34-year-old British man pleaded guilty Thursday to murder conspiracy in what authorities said was a plot to blow up the New York Stock Exchange and other high-profile financial targets across the eastern United States.

Computer records also revealed that the plot, still in its infancy, included plans to explode a radioactive "dirty bomb" in Britain capable of causing "injury, fear, terror and chaos," authorities said.

Dhiren Barot, a native of India who grew up in North London and converted to Islam, admitted his role in both parts of the conspiracy. But there was no evidence presented that he and his codefendants had raised any money or acquired any materials to carry out the attacks.

The arrests of Barot and seven other suspects in 2004 led to a high-level security alert in the U.S. aimed at securing buildings in financial districts in New York, New Jersey and Washington believed to be targets in the plot.

Computer records that U.S. authorities said were seized in separate investigations in London and Pakistan revealed plans to attack not only the New York Stock Exchange, but also the International Monetary Fund and World Bank buildings in Washington, the Citigroup building in New York and the Prudential building in Newark, N.J., prosecutors said.

The plan was "to carry out explosions at those premises with no warning. They were basically designed to kill as many innocent people as possible," prosecutor Edmund Lawson told the Woolwich Crown Court in South London.

Investigators said that, in addition to evidence of a plot to explode a dirty bomb in Britain, they uncovered plans for "back-to-back" attacks using three limousines packed with gas cylinders, explosives and detonators that were to be blown up in underground parking lots, Lawson said.

The original indictment charged Barot with possessing reconnaissance plans of the IMF headquarters, the stock exchange and Citigroup building, along with two notebooks containing information on explosives, poisons, chemicals and related matters. The defendant, however, entered a plea only on the conspiracy charge, suspending for now the other charges.

"I plead guilty," he said quietly in response to the judge's query.

Barot and two of the other defendants awaiting trial in Britain also face charges in the United States in connection with the same alleged conspiracy, but U.S. prosecutors have said they will await the completion of legal proceedings in Britain before pursuing the case.

Neither indictment has expressly linked the defendants to the Al Qaeda terrorist network. But one of the aliases attributed to Barot in the U.S. indictment is similar to the name of a man identified in the final report by the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks as a senior Al Qaeda leader. The report says the man, identified as Issa al Britani, was dispatched by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to scout for "potential economic and 'Jewish' targets in New York City."

The report also says Britani had been dispatched by self-declared Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to Malaysia to learn about the jihad in Southeast Asia from a senior leader of the Jemaah Islamiah organization, now in custody in the U.S.

According to the U.S. indictment filed in New York, Barot used the aliases Esa al-Britani, Abu Esa al-Britani, Esa al-Hindi and Issa al-Hindi. It says Barot had enrolled in college in New York as cover for a series of reconnaissance missions he undertook with his codefendants in New York and Washington between Aug. 17, 2000, and April 8, 2001.

No sentencing date was scheduled. Lawson said that in his guilty plea, Barot made "no admission with regard to the involvement of any of his seven codefendants in the conspiracy." They are scheduled to face trial next year.

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