Dhiren Barot, a convert from Hinduism to Islam, has been charged with terrorism and sentenced to life in jail. He admitted guilt to conspiracy to murder people through a bombing campaign in the USA and UK. This is the background as the BBC reported it.
Dhiren Barot, 34, a Muslim convert, was a "member or close associate" of the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation.
The UK citizen had been under MI5 surveillance and was arrested in London in August 2004 after police decided he was "simply too dangerous to leave" on the streets.
Barot received extensive terrorism training in the use of weapons and explosives for the first time in Pakistan in 1995.
Material recovered and used to form the prosecution case included documents, e-mails, DVDs and computer hard drives.
The most developed plot was the "gas limos project", a plan to blow up three limousines "packed" with gas cylinders and explosives next to or under target buildings in the UK.
Arson through hijacked petrol tankers and the use of an aircraft were among other possible methods of attack considered.
There were plans to detonate so-called dirty bombs - explosives devices containing radioactive material.
Barot carried out "substantial research" into the dirty bomb project, placing the details in computer files called "Brad Pitt" and "radioactive children".
He stated he wanted to "emulate" the Madrid train bombings, which killed almost 200 people in March 2004 with co-ordinated back-to-back attacks.
The US plans were drafted earlier and used to help to conceive the UK plot, headed by the gas limos project.
The plans were taken to Pakistan to be presented to senior al-Qaeda figures for approval and funding.
But the prosecution did not dispute a defence assertion that no funding had been received for the projects, nor any vehicles or bomb-making materials acquired.
The plans for attacking the UK were contained in the presentation for the gas limos project discovered after a raid by the Pakistani authorities in Gujrat in July 2004.
Targets included the rail and underground network in London, with the Heathrow Express, or an explosion on a Tube train in a tunnel under the River Thames cited as possible incidents.
Other sites identified were London hotels, including The Ritz and The Savoy, and stations such as Waterloo, Paddington and King's Cross.
Barot assumed a number of identities in a bid to "cover his tracks" and had at least one false passport.
He once travelled from London to Swansea just to use an internet cafe.
He assumed a false identity to gain access to the library at Brunel University in north-west London for research and appeared to have accessed other specialist libraries.
Plans to carry out bombings on the US were initiated before the September 11 2001 attacks, then shelved, but still worked on as late as February 2004.
Specific targets in the US plot included the International Monetary Fund and World Bank buildings in Washington, the New York Stock Exchange and Citigroup buildings in New York, and the Prudential building in Newark, New Jersey.
The US plans were prepared after reconnaissance was carried out by Barot during visits in 2000 and 2001.
A video of the Bruce Willis film Die Hard With A Vengeance seized from a London garage was found to have footage shot in New York in April 2001 at the end of it.
The filmed showed various locations in New York - focusing on entrances, security cameras, barriers and side streets as well as Jewish buildings, including synagogues.
Film footage of the World Trade Center featured a voice making the sound of an explosion.
Prosecutors said the Crown was not suggesting Barot had "knowledge" of the 9/11 terror attacks, but it "does demonstrate a more than unhealthy and violent interest in attacks on iconic buildings".
Material recovered in Barot's computer files used seemingly innocuous words to represent different topics such as "monty", "children" and "uncle" to cover research into explosives, gases and chemicals.
Deleted material uncovered on a hard drive revealed files containing research into topics such radioactive materials, homemade bombs, arson attacks and fire protection systems.
A handbook listing hazardous chemicals was found, as were notebooks containing references to books on subjects including explosives, chemical and biological warfare, and building structures.
"Shopping lists" of electrical items that could be used to construct an "improvised explosive device" were also seized, as was the text of a statement by Osama bin Laden "glorifying the September 11 attacks".
Barot set up temporary e-mail accounts to send coded messages and adopted anti-surveillance techniques.
This is pretty much the profile that fits a terrorist who is up to no good, but curiously, there have been quite a lot of noise and chatter on the internet and media about how he was innocent.
For example, this site casts doubt on a range of aspects relating to this case. Some very interesting conspiracy theories here as well (scroll down to the bottom for additional notes). Here is another article with some more arguments (if a bit more foaming!) on why he was innocent. The author fulminates against the Sun newspaper for scaremongering. And then here is another blog with more arguments about how the actual evidence didn't stack up (there is a pun here but you need to know more about the smoke detectors).
So what is the truth? A research paper came into my in-box and that seems to be a good detailed and sober effort to judge whether he was a saint or a sinner. Barot's book, The Army of Madinah in Kashmir. The company, Maktabah al-Ansaar, was raided by British police in 2000 for suspected links to Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks. Who owned the publishing company? Moazzam Begg. But the book itself is the most interesting of all to read and provides detailed understanding of the mind of this terrorist.
He prepares a professional presentation after research on what type of radiological bombs to use and the hazards thereof. He also makes a project document with more details, known as the gas limo project. In 2004, Pakistani police arrest one of his compatriots and find links between his computer and Barot. His confession spawns a range of investigations and arrests. I quote:
In many ways Dhiren Barot fits the profile of other Islamic terrorists who have carried out attacks in the West. A South Asian immigrant in Europe, he never lived in depravity and squalor; rather, he led a comfortable middle-class life, was intelligent and educated, and does not appear to have suffered any extraordinary hardships. He was a member of what David Jones has dubbed the "cybercaliphate" - the modern, high-tech, globalized jihad. Like the 7/7 bombers and the Hamburg cell of terrorists that included Mohammed Atta, Barot spoke fluent English, was familiar with the West, and was well-traveled. As Marc Sageman has demonstrated in his landmark study of Salafist terrorist organizations, most mujahideen come from upper- or middle-class families and are well educated. They tend, furthermore, to be "full-time mujahideen," their qualifications for legitimate employment notwithstanding.42 In spite of his background, a combination of religious devotion and outrage over what he perceived as attacks on Muslim civilization appear to have driven Barot to extreme lengths.
This is the worrying bit, he is your typical Muslim, as a matter of fact, he is what any country would love to have as a citizen. Perfect. So he is definitely a terrorist based upon his actions, motivations, people he was meeting and working with and ideology.
And that's where the ideologically twisted mind was born! Not that we can stop this from happening and the fact that he was an Indian and Hindu prior to his conversion seems to be a total aberration . So how many other Barot's are working in the UK? How are we going to keep track of these terrorists who get training and supplies from Pakistan? Difficult questions but eternal vigilance.
Carlisle, David, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, "Dhiren Barot: Was He an Al Qaeda Mastermind or Merely a Hapless Plotter?" 2007, 30, 12, 1057-1071
This article profiles Dhiren Barot, a convert to Islam who was convicted in Britain in October 2006 on charges of conspiracy to commit murder for planning terrorist attacks in the United States and the United Kingdom. Upon his conviction, much of the British press, and many other observers, claimed Barot was a high-level Al Qaeda figure whose plans were on the verge of execution. Other observers, and Barot's defense attorneys, however, argued that these allegations were exaggerated. Barot, they claimed, had done nothing more than sketch vague plans for which he had no funding and was merely being used by the British government as an example in the War on Terror. This article details Barot's life and terrorist activity. It argues that he was a committed jihadi, was likely an Al Qaeda member, and did indeed represent a security threat. Nonetheless, the lack of public information available on his life suggests that certain allegations about his status within Al Qaeda and the immanency of his plans should be treated skeptically. It concludes by considering to what extent Barot fits the profile of other Islamic terrorists.