A British al-Qa’ida terrorist planned to kill thousands of people in the UK and US in a series of attacks, a court heard today.
Dhiren Barot, a 34-year-old Muslim convert from north London, led a conspiracy to commit mass murder and achieve, in his own words, ” another black day for the enemies of Islam and a victory for the Muslims” .
His plots included using radioactive dirty bombs, a petrol tanker and even an attempt to flood London’s Underground network by blowing up a Tube train under the Thames.
“Imagine the chaos that would be caused if a powerful explosion were to rip through here and actually rupture the river itself. That would cause pandemonium, what with the explosions, flooding, drowning etc that would occur,” the terrorist wrote.
Addressing a two-day sentencing hearing at London’s Woolwich Crown Court today, Edmund Lawson QC, for the Crown, said: “Barot, who was a member or close associate of the al-Qa’ida terrorist organisation, led a conspiracy in this country to cause lethal explosions both here and in the USA, a conspiracy frustrated by the actions of police in arresting him in August 2004.
“The plan was to carry out massive explosions here and in the USA, the principal object being to kill hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people without warning.”
Barot, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder at a hearing last month, wanted to “emulate” the Madrid train bombings, which killed almost 200 people, Mr Lawson told the court.
Central to Barot’s plans was the “gas limos project”, the main part of which was recovered in Pakistan.
In it, Barot set out plans for co-ordinated back-to-back attacks “as they were on 9/11″.
Mr Lawson said the Madrid bombings took place on March 11 2004, and that therefore the document was not completed before that date.
When completed, Barot was in Pakistan presenting his proposals to his ” terrorist masters”, the court was told.
Mr Lawson said the American “bombings” were initially planned in 2000 and 2001 – before the September 11 attacks.
But he added: “It appears likely that they were shelved after 9/11 following what the terrorists would call their ‘success’.”
He said that although the plans were “shelved”, they were ” not forgotten” and were accessed or worked on as late as February 2004.
The US plots were used in helping to conceive the UK terrorist plans, headed by the so-called gas limos project.
He said: “The gas limos project might be seen as the culmination of Barot’s murderous plans.”
Mr Lawson detailed the planned attacks on the US, which included plots to target buildings in Washington, New York and Newark.
The specific targets were the International Monetary Fund and World Bank buildings in Washington, the New York Stock Exchange and Citigroup buildings in New York, and the Prudential building in Newark.
Mr Lawson said: “There were various possible methods of attack raised for consideration, including part of what was to be considered for the UK.
“They included parking limousines packed with explosives next to or underneath the target buildings, arson, by means of hijacked petrol tankers, or igniting gas cylinders and even possibly the use of an aeroplane.”
Mr Lawson said the US plans were prepared after reconnaissance was carried out by Barot during visits to the US in 2000 and 2001.
He said: “Then that would form the basis of the plans that were to be presented to al-Qa’ida.”
Mr Lawson went on to outline the plans for attacks on the UK, contained in the presentation for the gas limos project.
He said that Barot travelled to Pakistan in early 2004, with the ” obvious inference” being that the purpose of the trip was to present the plans for approval and funding.
He said: “The principal attack involved packing three limousines with gas cylinders, explosives, shrapnel and the like and then detonating the devices in underground car parks.”
Mr Lawson said: “There were plans for the detonation of a radiation dispersal device, more commonly known as a dirty bomb, the use of a petrol tanker to cause an explosion, and an attack on London’s rail or Underground network, including the Heathrow Express, of an explosion on a Tube train while in a tunnel under the River Thames.”
Mr Lawson said the reason that Barot had “belatedly” been forced to admit his guilt was thanks to a “meticulous and impressive” police operation in August 2004.
Mr Lawson said the picture of Barot as a senior and organised terrorist was consistent with the terms of a letter written by him and recovered by police when he spoke of a “small unit” operating “around the clock” and a passage in the gas limos project where he described a “sleeper cell “.
He added that the gas limos project document was found following a raid by the Pakistani authorities in Gujarat, Pakistan, in July 2004.
The court heard how Barot assumed a number of identities in a bid to ” cover his tracks”. He once even travelled from London to Swansea just to use an internet cafe.
He assumed a false identity to gain access to the library at Brunel University in north London to enable him to research his plans without being detected.
Mr Lawson said Barot appeared to have accessed other specialist libraries to facilitate his research.
He “went some considerable length to disguise his identity”, Mr Lawson said. This was consistent with the terrorist training he had been given, he added.
Barot’s arrest took place on August 3 2004 after he was spotted by surveillance teams and following a decision by police that he was ” simply too dangerous to leave” on the streets, the court heard.
Mr Lawson said he was arrested “speedily” by armed police.
He added that following the arrest, police carried out a number of raids and recovered a “huge amount of material” which was later used in the case against Barot.
He told the court that one of the “most significant” discoveries was a DVD found during one of the raids which contained plans for attacks on the US and material relating to the gas limos project presentation.
Police also recovered, during one of the raids, three separate hard drives.
Mr Lawson told the court that deleted material on one of the drives ” revealed literally hundreds of files containing research into topics such as gas explosions, homemade explosives, information relevant to arson attacks and fire protection systems, and research which was plainly relevant to the terrorist plans”.
Within these files, documents entitled Final Presentation and Hazard were also found, as well as a folder named Radioactive Children, which had 93 pages on radioactive materials.
Police also recovered during the raids notebooks containing references to freely available books on subjects including explosives and building structure.
Titles of books referenced by the handwritten notes included The Chemistry Of Fireworks, What You Really Need to Know About Cancer, and Fire And Buildings.
Mr Lawson added that the notes also contained references to publications about chemical and biological warfare and how to use a sulphuric acid mixture in a bomb timer.
Barot’s fingerprints were found on some of the items recovered.
Mr Lawson said that during police raids following Barot’s arrest, text of a statement by Osama Bin Laden was found.
He told the court: “There was found a copy of Bin Laden’s statement glorifying the September 11 attacks.”
He added that Barot’s fingerprints were found on the statement.
Mr Lawson went on to mention other material recovered by police including a textbook called The Hazardous Chemicals Handbook.
He said some of the pages of the book contained annotations.
One part that appeared to have been marked was a section on “noble gases” which “if leaked into an enclosed room can cause asphyxia to anybody present”, Mr Lawson said.
Also found during the raids was a piece of paper with handwritten notes containing the titles of two books named Why Buildings Fall Down and Why Buildings Stand Up, the court was told.
The court heard that during a search of a garage in London, officers found a number of videotapes.
One of the tapes contained a copy of the Bruce Willis film Die Hard With A Vengeance.
At the end of the movie there was one hour and 20 minutes of video footage from a hand-held camera that had been shot in New York, the court was told.
The footage showed various locations in Broad Street and Wall Street, including the New York stock exchange, and it focused on entrances, security cameras, barriers and side streets.
There was also footage of Jewish buildings on it, including synagogues.
Mr Lawson said the prosecution knew with “complete confidence” that the video was made over the weekend of April 7 and 8 2001.
Part of the video was played to the court.
Mr Lawson said an edited version of the video, which was made after the 9/11 terror atrocities, was also discovered.
He said that at one point in the recording a man appeared in shot and was seen to walk in front of the camera outside the stock exchange in New York.
Facial mapping experts have said there were a significant number of similarities between this person’s facial features and those of Barot and no significant differences, Mr Lawson told the court.
He said Barot denied that it was him.
Subtitles were added to the edited version post-9/11. One of these which appeared on a video shown to the court read: “Since the collapse of the World Trade Centre security has greatly been increased.”
Mr Lawson said this proves it could only have been edited after 9/11.
Throughout this morning’s hearing, Barot, who was dressed in a black T-shirt and black jacket, sat impassively at the back of the court, occasionally looking around distractedly.