Britain orders 8 held in terror plot

Men allegedly planned deadly attacks against financial targets in U.S.

August 19, 2004|By Janet Stobart | Janet Stobart,LOS ANGELES TIMES

LONDON - Eight Britons accused of conspiring to commit murder and mount attacks against financial targets in the United States appeared in court here yesterday and were ordered held until a hearing next week.

The men, arrested Aug. 3 under Britain's Terrorism Act of 2000, appeared under heavy guard in London's Belmarsh Magistrate's Court for a reading of the charges, which included plotting to carry out attacks using explosives and radioactive, biological or chemical materials.

Prosecutor Sue Hemming told the court that police had a great deal of evidence to sift through and that what they had found so far was "only the tip of the iceberg." Police were examining data from more than 100 computers and thousands of files, and "investigations will be going on for some time," she said.

Presiding Judge Timothy Workman ordered the defendants held until a preliminary hearing Wednesday in London's Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey. None of the men entered a plea or applied for bail.

The charges, filed Tuesday, link the arrests to an Aug. 1 alert in the United States that suggested possible attacks on the New York Stock Exchange and Citicorp's headquarters in New York, World Bank and the International Monetary Fund offices in Washington, and the Prudential Financial Inc. building in Newark, N.J.

The defendants arrived in two convoys, escorted by police cars. Security was tight, and police helicopters hovered overhead. In court, the men were guarded by police, but not handcuffed. Each appeared behind a plate-glass window, flanked by officers in body armor.

Abdul Aziz Jalil, 31, from Luton just north of London, appeared first. He sat quietly while the court clerk read charges of conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy "together with others to cause a public nuisance by the use of radioactive materials, toxic gases, chemicals and explosives."

Hemming asked that Jalil be denied bail, saying that although he had no previous convictions, he had a "strong and deeply held ideology" and was likely to commit "dangerous" acts to further it.

Nadeem Tarmohamed, 26, was read the same two principal charges and a further allegation that he was in possession of a "reconnaissance plan of the Prudential building in New Jersey and information of a kind materially useful to a person committing an act of terror."

Zia ul Haq and Qaisar Shaffi, both 25 of London, face the same principal charges. Shaffi also stands accused of possessing excerpts from a handbook with "information on explosives and other weapons materially useful to someone committing crimes contrary to Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000."

The other four defendants, who appeared together and heard the same principal charges, were Dhiren Barot, 32; Mohammed Naveed Bhatti, 24; Omar Abdul Rehman, 20; and Junade Feroze, 28. Barot was also accused of possessing records and documents on the Prudential building, as well as plans of the New York Stock Exchange, the International Monetary Fund offices and the Citigroup building.

Barot has been labeled a senior al-Qaida operative.

A ninth man, Matthew Monks, 32, of London, who was arrested with them, appeared earlier and was charged with possession of an air gun that could be converted to a firearm. He was not alleged to be one of the suspected conspirators. He was released on bail and is to appear in court Sept. 28.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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