Forty-year jail term for British al-Qa'ida terrorist

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A British terrorist who was jailed for life yesterday for plotting mass murder in London and United States had been handpicked and sent on assignments by the mastermind behind the September 11 atrocities.

Dhiren Barot, 34, a Muslim convert, was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years for conspiracy to murder thousands of people in a series of explosions, including a radioactive "dirty bomb". Details of Barot's connections with al-Qa'ida commanders, including Osama bin Laden, were disclosed after the trial.

The judge at Woolwich Crown Crown in London said Barot's plans would have caused carnage on a "colossal and unprecedented scale" if they had succedded. The police and MI5 believe he was within six weeks of launching an attack on a series of London targets that could have included luxury hotels, mainline railway stations, a Tube train under the Thames and the Heathrow Express train.

Evidence presented in the trial and gathered by anti-terrorist officers revealed that Barot was one of the highest ranking British al-Qa'ida operatives to be captured.

An independent American review into the attacks on America in 2001, known as the 9/11 Commission, said Barot was sent to New York to carry out reconnaissance on potential targets by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of numerous terrorist atrocities, including the attacks on the World Trade Centre, at the direction of Osama bin Laden.

British anti-terrorism sources said Barot was believed to have been handpicked by Mohammed in the late 1990s while at a training camp in Afghanistan.

The 9/11 Commission said that Mohammed sent Barot - who was identified in the report as Issa al Britani, which was an alias he often used - to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to receive terrorist training, before going to America.

The joint police and MI5 investigation, codenamed Operation Rhyme, revealed that plots to cause mass casualties in the UK were being directly funded and controlled by al-Qa'ida leaders based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and involved dedicated and well-trained British terrorists.

The investigation discovered that Barot, who was brought up in London by his Indian parents as a Hindu, travelled to Pakistan to brief senior al-Qa'ida members on his terror plans and reconnaisance shortly before he was arrested in London in August 2004. He is thought to have been given the go-ahead to carry out his plan. His capture was prompted by the seizure in July 2004 in Pakistan of Naeem Noor Khan - a leading figure in the al-Qa'ida network - and a computer that contained details of Barot's terror plots.

At yesterday's sentencing, the judge, Mr Justice Butterfield, said that if successful, Barot's plans for a series of synchronised terror attacks would have affected "thousands personally, millions indirectly and ultimately the whole nations of the US and the UK".

He told Barot, who pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to murder, that he would have to serve at least 40 years in jail before being considered for release.

Barot, who converted to Islam at the age of 20, sat impassively as the judge announced the sentence. The court had heard how he prepared two terror atrocities in meticulous detail for his al-Qa'ida leaders. The first was to collapse five key financial institutions in Washington, New York and Newark, using limousines packed with explosives in underground car parks, or by ramming oil tankers into them.

His second was aimed at Britain, and involved a repeat of the limousines plan, together with a radioactive "dirty bomb", a gas attack on the Heathrow Express and a plot to blow up a Tube train under the Thames.

Despite not finding any explosives or bomb-making equipment, Mr Justice Butterfield said it was clear that Barot's "chilling" plans were "no idle plot".

Had he not been thwarted by the police and security services his plans would have resulted in a "terrible massacre".

"This was no noble cause," the judge told Barot. "Your plans were to bring indiscriminate carnage, bloodshed and butchery, first in Washington, New York and Newark, and thereafter the UK on a colossal and unprecedented scale."

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism command, said: "Barot was a determined and experienced terrorist.

"He went to terrorist training camps in 1995, long before 9/11, or the invasions of Afghanistan or Iraq. His arrest and conviction will be seen as a landmark in the fight against terrorism in the United Kingdom."