- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

LONDON — British police charged eight terrorist suspects yesterday with conspiring to commit murder and use radioactive materials, toxic gases, chemicals or explosives to cause “fear or injury” in a case involving a top al Qaeda operative at the center of a U.S. terror alert this month.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said federal authorities were determining whether to press charges in the United States against the men, including the top al Qaeda suspect accused of having surveillance plans of financial institutions in New York, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey.

A U.S. government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said 32-year-old Dhiren Barot was the key al Qaeda suspect charged with possessing the surveillance plans. Barot previously has been identified as Abu Eisa al-Hindi or Abu Musa al-Hindi.

Barot was charged by the British yesterday with possession of notebooks containing information on explosives, poisons, chemicals and related matters, and of a reconnaissance plan concerning the New York Stock Exchange, the International Monetary Fund in Washington and the Citigroup building in New York.

According to the British charges, Barot; Mohammed Naveed Bhatti, 24; Abdul Aziz Jalil, 31; Omar Abdul Rehman, 20; Junade Feroze, 28; Zia ul Haq, 25; Qaisar Shaffi, 25; and Nadeem Tarmohammed, 26, are accused of conspiring “with other persons unknown” to commit murder between January 2000 and Aug. 4, 2004.

The eight also are charged with conspiring between the same dates to cause a public nuisance by using radioactive materials, toxic gases, chemicals and/or explosives to cause “disruption, fear or injury.”

Barot and Tarmohammed are charged separately with possessing a reconnaissance plan of the Prudential Building in violation of the Terrorism Act.

The charges for the first time officially linked the Aug. 3 arrests across Britain and a series of arrests last month in Pakistan to the Aug. 1 terrorism alerts surrounding the New York Stock Exchange and Citigroup Inc. headquarters, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank buildings in Washington, and the Prudential Financial Inc. building in Newark, N.J.

Mr. Ashcroft said the Justice Department had been working closely with British authorities and that FBI agents and analysts would continue sharing information.

“In addition, prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan will explore every aspect of this case and evaluate whether additional charges, including potential charges in the United States, are appropriate,” Mr. Ashcroft said from Washington.

U.S. counterterrorism officials have said they believe Barot, known by dozens of aliases including Issa al-Britani, was the author of documents, written in fluent English, describing surveillance at U.S. financial buildings during 2000 and 2001. The information was found on computers and in e-mail during the July raids in Pakistan.

Barot was described as a trusted senior al Qaeda operative who was sent in early 2001 to conduct surveillance on possible economic and “Jewish” targets in New York on the orders of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, according to U.S. interrogations of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.

Pakistani officials said this week that Barot, known as a veteran of the Islamic militant battle against Indian forces in Kashmir, also traveled this past March to a militant hide-out near the Pakistan-Afghan border and met with other terrorist suspects.

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