Dirty bomb plotters jailed for 136 years

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The Daily Telegraph
15 June, 2007

Cell mastermind Dhiren Barot

Seven members of a gang run by Dhiren Barot, one of the most dangerous al-Qa’eda terrorists seen in Britain, have been jailed for a combined total of 136 years for plotting terrorist atrocities on both sides of the Atlantic.

All seven were recruited by Barot, who was jailed for a minimum of 30 years last year for plotting to kill thousands of people using explosives-packed limousines and a “dirty” radiation bomb.

The seven, who individually received jail terms of between 15 and 26 years, were vital to his plans to attack the UK and the US, Woolwich Crown Court in London was told.

All but one pleaded guilty to their part in Barot’s plotting. Sentencing them, Mr Justice Butterfield said: “Barot was the instigator of this terrorist planning; he was by some considerable distance the principal participant in the conspiracy.

“Each one of you was recruited by Barot and assisted him at his request. Anyone who chooses to participate in such a plan ... will receive little sympathy from the courts.”

Barot, 34, had spent a year researching and drawing up a 39-page document which he presented to senior al-Qa’eda planners in April 2004. It contained a number of potentially devastating ideas.

The “Gas Limos Project” proposed packing limousines with propane gas cylinders and drive them into underground car parks beneath already identified targets. Barot also proposed a radioactive “dirty bomb,” hijacking a train and blowing up a petrol tanker in a series of co-ordinated attacks.

The plans had also suggested attacking tube trains under the Thames, to flood the tunnel, and the Heathrow Express. Police were unable to identify definite targets for the “Gas Limos Project” but found a list of central London train stations and hotels.

As part of a previous plan to attack financial institutions in Washington and New York, Barot - an intelligent and well-educated Hindu convert to Islam - had made a video in which one of the terrorists could be heard making the sound of a mock explosion at the World Trade Centre, five months before the September 11 attacks.

Police also found a list a potential hotel targets in central London, including the Savoy, the Churchill InterContinental, the Berkeley, the Hyatt Carlton Tower and the Marriott at Marble Arch. The gang had researched details of entry points and underground car parks.

There was also discussion about using a radioactive dirty bomb to “close off an area the size of Manhattan", though there was little evidence that they could acquire the radioactive material needed.

Abdul Aziz Jalil, 34, from Luton, Bedfordshire, was jailed for 26 years. Junade Feroze, 31, from Blackburn, Lancashire, received 22 years and Mohammed Naveed Bhatti, 27, from Harrow, north London, and Nadeem Tarmohamed, 29, from Willesden, north west London, were both given 20 years. Zia Ul Haq, 28, from Paddington, west London, was given 18 years.

Omar Abdur Rehman, 23, from Bushey, Herts, and Qaisar Shaffi, 28, from Willesden, north west London, received 15 years each. Shaffi was convicted of conspiracy to murder after a month-long trial which ended earlier this week.

The others pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to cause explosions likely to endanger life. Barot also pleaded guilty.

In the spring of 2004, MI5 and police were relieved to have captured the group of terrorists who would become known as the “fertiliser gang”.

Worrying, they had no idea of the existence in the UK of Barot and his fellow conspirators. However, investigators in Pakistan arrested an al-Qa’eda associate of Barot, sparking arrests in the UK.

Jonathan Laidlaw, for the Crown, told the court Barot “lived in the shadows”, planning the attacks, but needed the help “of those who could provide him with accommodation, false identities, access to false bank accounts, who could provide a place of storage for his plans and research material and access to computers.”

He also needed minders and drivers - roles fulfilled by Jalil, Bhatti and Feroze at various points - and others to look after him as he carried out reconnaissance. It was not alleged the seven produced the plans for the attacks and nor were they the instigators of them.

Bhatti’s father is a mechanic at a Jaguar showroom, and Bhatti, who has a degree in engineering, was studying for a postgraduate qualification at Brunel University.

Two members of the fertilizer gang also studied at Brunel. Zia ul-Haq had a degree in architecture, planning, building and environmental studies and worked for a firm of chartered surveyors in London. Rehman was studying for a degree in graphic information design. Feroze’s family ran a garage in Blackburn.

Peter Clarke, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and head of the Counter Terrorism Command, said: “We know Barot was the ringleader of this terrorist cell. However, he needed the help of the seven men who have been jailed today.”