The four-count indictment alleges that Dhiren Barot (a/k/a Esa al-Britani, Abu Esa al-Britani, Esa al-Hindi and Issa al-Hindi), Nadeem Tarmohamed and Qaisar Shaffi entered the United States in 2000 and 2001 to conduct surveillance of several buildings in New York, Northern New Jersey and Washington, D.C. as part of a conspiracy to damage and destroy the buildings. After discovery of the surveillance activities, the Homeland Security Advisory level was raised from "Elevated" (Yellow) to "High" (Orange) for those communities until November 2004. According to the indictment, the conspiracies to attack buildings were ongoing until August 2004, when the defendants were arrested in the United Kingdom.
According to the indictment, at various times from on or about Aug. 17, 2000 through April 8, 2001, the three men visited and conducted surveillance on buildings and surrounding neighborhoods in the United States, including the International Monetary Fund World Headquarters and the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Prudential Corporate Plaza and World Headquarters Building in Newark, N.J., and the New York Stock Exchange Building and the Citigroup Centre in Manhattan. This surveillance allegedly included, among other things, video surveillance conducted in Manhattan in or about April 2001. The indictment alleges that the surveillance was part of the conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.
"The fact that these terrorists stalked their targets while surrounded by innocent and unsuspecting Americans going about their everyday affairs reminds all of us that a successful campaign against terrorism calls upon all of us to be ever-vigilant," said U.S. Attorney David N. Kelley of the Southern District of New York. "The entire law enforcement community is committed to this battle and will travel the globe to bring to justice any and all terrorists, particularly those plotting to commit terrorist acts on our soil."
The defendants are charged with: conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against persons within the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2332a (a)(2); conspiracy to provide and conceal material support and resources to terrorists, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339A; providing and concealing material support and resources to terrorists, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339A; and conspiracy to damage and destroy buildings used in interstate and foreign commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844 (i) and (n).
"The conspiracy laid out in the indictment was designed to kill as many Americans as possible, and the alleged surveillance of these buildings makes these allegations all the more serious," said Deputy Attorney General James Comey. "Through the hard work of many of our law enforcement partners both here and overseas, we were able to hold those behind the conspiracy accountable for their actions and ensure that their plans to harm our homeland never materialized."
The men are currently in custody in the United Kingdom, facing criminal charges in that country. At the conclusion of those proceedings, the United States intends to seek the extradition of all three defendants so that they may stand trial in this country.
If convicted of the charges in the United States, the defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison on the charge of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, 15 years in prison on each material support count, and 20 years in prison on the charge of conspiring to damage and destroy buildings.
Gary Bald, the FBI's executive assistant director for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence, said, "These indictments show once again that the battle against terrorism is global, and to win it, we must be able to investigate aggressively and piece together intelligence from the country and across the world. This case is a success story because of strong cooperation between the New York and New Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Forces, other JTTFs across the country, our Legal Attache Office in London, our counterparts in the U.K. and other international partners."