A senior British al-Qa’ida terrorist plotted to emulate the 9/11 attacks and the Madrid train bombings to kill thousands of people in London and New York, a court has been told.
Dhiren Barot, 34, a Muslim convert, planned to use a radioactive “dirty bomb” and explosive devices in a series of synchronised attacks to blow up luxury hotels, a Tube train under the River Thames, or possibly the Heathrow Express train.
Barot, who last month admitted conspiracy to murder in one of the most significant terrorism cases to date, also carried out detailed video surveillance in New York on financial institutions. Video footage from one trip – made five months before the attacks on 11 September, 2001 – featured shots of the World Trade Centre with someone making the sound of an explosion, Woolwich Crown Court heard. It has not been suggested that Barot had any direct involvement with the devastating suicide attacks on the twin towers.
Barot, from north-west London, made several trips to Pakistan where he met senior al-Qa’ida leaders who sanctioned his plans. These include a “gas limo project” in which limousines packed with gas cylinders would be detonated in underground carparks. Details of the “gas limos project” were found on a computer seized in a raid by authorities in Pakistan, in July 2004.
The court yesterday heard details of the prosecution’s case against Barot, before the judge sentences him today. Edmund Lawson QC, prosecuting, told the court: “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.
“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.”
The prosecution said Barot had written: “Imagine the chaos that would be caused if a powerful explosion were to rip through here [London] and actually rupture the river itself.
“That would cause pandemonium, what with the explosions, flooding, drowning etc that would occur.”
Other documents found on a computer at an alleged associate’s address contained details of some of London’s top hotels and mainline stations which were potential targets for a terrorist attack.
The document listed websites for several leading hotels in the capital, including the Berkeley, the Savoy, the Hyatt Carlton Tower, the Marriott in Marble Arch and the Intercontinental.
The document also contained details of a parking arrangement at three of London’s biggest mainline stations – Waterloo, Paddington and Kings Cross.
Barot, who was arrested in a barber shop in north-west London following a police and MI5 operation in August 2004, wanted to “emulate” the Madrid train bombings, which killed almost 200 people, Mr Lawson told the court.
In his terror plot, Barot set out plans for co-ordinated back-to-back attacks “as they were on 9/11”. He made several trips to the United States to carry out reconnaissance.
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 methods of attack raised for consideration. They included parking limousines packed with explosives next to or underneathbuildings, arson, by means of hijacked petrol tankers, or igniting gas cylinders and even possibly the use of an aeroplane.”
Film footage of the World Trade Centre shot during Barot’s reconnaissance trip to New York was played to Woolwich Crown Court in which the sound of someone imitating the noise of an explosion was audible.
Mr Lawson said the Crown was not trying to suggest that Barot had “full knowledge” of the 9/11 attacks. However, he said: “It does demonstrate a more than unhealthy and violent interest in attacks on iconic buildings such as the World Trade Centre and is notable surely for its macabre property.”
The court heard that video footage of New York was found hidden on a copy of the Bruce Willis film Die Hard With A Vengeance – which is about a gang of robbers who set off a series of explosions in New York.
Mr Lawson said the US “bombings” were initially planned in 2000 and 2001 – before the 9/11 attacks. He said they were accessed or worked on as late as February 2004.
Seven other men are due to stand trial in April in connection with the plots.
Barot plotted to destroy key financial institutions in New York, Washington and Newark by detonating explosives-packed limousines or hijacking petrol tankers and setting them ablaze. He also considered using aeroplanes.
He considered flooding a Tube tunnel with a bomb under the Thames.
He planned synchronised attacks in London, which could have included a ‘dirty’ bomb, a gas attack on the Heathrow Express and stretch limousines filled with gas canisters in a bombing campaign.
London hotels and transport networks were considered as targets