Dhiren Barot - the jailed British al Qaeda leader
By Michael Holden1 hour, 30 minutes ago
A British judge jailed seven men on Friday for a total of 136 years for their part in a plot masterminded by British al Qaeda leader Dhiren Barot to blow up U.S. financial institutions and stage attacks in Britain.
The men, Mohammed Naveed Bhatti, Junade Feroze, Zia Ul Haq, Abdul Aziz Jalil, Nadeem Tarmohamed, Omar Abdur Rehman pleaded guilty to conspiring with Barot to cause explosions between 2001 and 2004. The seventh, Qaisar Shaffi, was found guilty on Wednesday.
Barot, a senior British member of Osama bin Laden's network and the mastermind behind the attacks, is currently serving a life sentence after admitting to the charges last year.
Barot's route to jail started five months before al Qaeda plane hijackers carried out the Sept. 11 2001 attacks when he was America preparing plans for another deadly mission.
While the 9/11 plotters were finalising their plans to crash planes into targets in New York and Washington, Indian-born Barot was also in the two U.S. cities, scouting buildings used by some of the country's most important financial bodies.
His plan was to bomb targets like the New York Stock Exchange and the International Monetary Fund.
He also admitted planning to blow up limousines packed with explosives and gas cylinders at underground car parks in Britain, to set off radiologically contaminated "dirty bombs", and to detonate a bomb on an underground train as it travelled beneath the River Thames.
Prosecutors said the plots were designed to kill as many people as possible.
Barot, who had a series of aliases including Esa al-Britani and Abu Eissa al-Hindi, had a long history of involvement with Islamist militant groups.
By the time of the U.S. bomb plots, some U.S. officials believe he was either al Qaeda's cell leader in Europe or at least the head of bin Laden's organisation in Britain.
He was born to a Hindu family in India but converted to Islam when he was 20.
He rose to prominence at the end of the 1990s when he wrote a book entitled "The Army of Madinah in Kashmir" which relates his experiences in the disputed region between India and Pakistan.
The book reveals he trained with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan and then fought against Indian forces.
"The Mujahideen ... are waging an unrelenting Jihad and continue to endure on this path," he wrote.
Although Barot admitted planning attacks in Britain, it is not one of the five countries -- India, Pakistan, the United States, Israel and Russia -- he labelled enemies in his book.
He returned to Britain when his book was written, before going back to Afghanistan for a year, this time to work as a lead instructor in training camps.
He emigrated to south Thailand in 1998 where he married and joined training camps run by the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
According to the official U.S. 9/11 Commission report, Barot was sent to the United States by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the bin Laden lieutenant who says he masterminded the Sept. 11 attacks.
Mohammed, now in U.S. custody, described Barot's mission to CIA interrogators.
"KSM claims, at Bin Laden's direction in early 2001, he sent Britani to the United States to case potential economic and 'Jewish' targets in New York City," the report says.
U.S. officials say he entered America in 2000 and 2001 to begin conducting surveillance operations. In June 2000, he applied and won a place at the Mohawk Valley Community College in New York. Although he was admitted, he never enrolled or attended any classes there.
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