updated 10/14/2004 9:56:37 AM ET 2004-10-14T13:56:37

A senior al-Qaida operative accused of conducting surveillance on U.S. financial buildings as possible terror targets entered the United States on a student visa, according to a newspaper report.

FBI agent Joseph Billy Jr. told The Record of Bergen County for a story in Thursday’s  editions that the operative lived in New Jersey and attended several schools there while carrying out the reconnaissance operation. Billy did not identify the schools.

U.S. officials have identified the suspect as 32-year-old Dhiren Barot. He was arrested by British authorities in August and remains in custody there.

The British say Barot had reconnaissance reports from 2001 and 2002 for the Prudential building in Newark, the New York Stock Exchange and the Citigroup building in Manhattan and the International Monetary Fund headquarters in Washington.

Discovery of those surveys led U.S. Homeland Security officials to declare an orange alert in early August. Authorities later concluded that the buildings were not under imminent threat of attack.

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