London's Scotland Yard on Friday released a series of videos, maps and attack plans for a plot to assault New York's financial district, prepared by al-Qaida operatives six months before the Sept. 11 attack.
While some parts of the videos and some of the attack information — prepared for Osama bin Laden himself — were previously made public, today's release is the most detailed regarding the attack plans.
The materials were released today after seven members of a terror cell run by al-Qaida "general'' Dhiren Barot were sentenced in London to a total of 136 years in prison. Mohammed Naveed Bhatti, Junade Feroze, Zia Ul Haq, Abdul Aziz Jalil, Omar Abdur Rehman, Qaisar Shaffi and Nadeem Tarmohamed were vital to his deadly plans to attack targets in the United Kingdom and United States, Woolwich Crown Court was told.
Convicted of plotting mass killings
Barot was arrested in August 2004 and was jailed for life last year for plotting to kill "hundreds if not thousands'' of people using explosives-packed limousines and a "dirty'' radiation bomb. He once fought with mujahadeen forces in Kashmir and served as an instructor at an Afghan training camp
"Dhiren Barot and his gang were determined terrorists who planned bombings on both sides of the Atlantic," Peter Clarke, National Coordinator of Terrorist Investigations, said Friday. "We know Barot was the ringleader of this terrorist cell. However, he needed the help of the seven men who have been jailed today.
"The plans for a series of coordinated attacks in the United Kingdom included packing three limousines with gas cylinders and explosives before setting them off in underground car parks. This could have caused huge loss of life. The plans to set off a dirty bomb in this country would have caused fear, panic and widespread disruption.”
Suspects allegedly cased buildings
The surveillance of the U.S. financial institutions was first revealed two years ago when it was found on an al-Qaida computer in Pakistan. The surveillance itself had been learned of during CIA interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), architect of the Sept. 11 attacks. As the 9-11 Commission Report stated, "KSM claims, at Bin Ladin's direction in early 2001, he sent Britani (Barot's alias) to the United States to case potential economic and "Jewish" targets in New York City."
The map released Friday lays out the route Barot took around Lower Manhattan in April 2001, as he moved from location to location, shooting short videos of each site:
- New York Stock Exchange
- NYSE and surrounding area
- NYSE Visitor Center entrance
- NYPD officer in a police car
- Entrance to NYSE
- Liberty Plaza and North and South Towers of World Trade Center
- Fire Department New York station
- Nitrogen gas cylinders, which provide nitrogen for the New York subway system
In addition to the surveillance tapes, Barot kept specific notes about security in and around the targeted buildings:
- At Citicorp, for example, he mapped the best place to plant bombs, kept track of security personnel and times of heaviest pedestrian flow, and highlighted exact times and locations of when puppet shows for children are held in the building's atrium;
- At the Stock Exchange, he had detailed information on the building itself. He timed traffic lights and patterns and mapped out detailed escape routes for bombers through subway and sewage tunnels;
- At the Prudential building, he had the exact location of the garage, timed traffic lights around the building and suggested driving and exploding an oil tanker through the lobby to bring down the building; and
- As previously released documents show, Barot planned to use gas-filled limousines as bombs. The document also refers to the Madrid bombings of March 11, 2004 as a "respectable project" that "deserved to be emulated."
After Sept. 11 and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the plot fell apart, although one of Friday’s documents — a World Bank directory from 2003 — showed that at the very least, Barot hoped to carry out the attacks.