A judge sentenced a top al-Qaida operative Tuesday to life in prison in a trans-Atlantic plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange, the World Bank and landmark London hotels.
Judge Neil Butterfield denounced Dhiren Barot's plot to "slaughter hundreds - if not thousands - of wholly innocent men, women and children," and called the plan sophisticated, deadly and active. Seven others linked to Barot are to be tried in Britain next year.
Barot's sentence provides for the possibility of parole after 40 years.
"You have chosen to use your life to bring death and destruction to the Western world," Butterfield told Barot, who stared blankly as he heard the sentence. "You were planning to bring indiscriminate carnage, bloodshed and butchery ... on an unprecedented scale."
Scotland Yard pointed to Barot's capture as a victory against terrorism.
"For well over two years we have been unable to show the British public the reality of the threat they faced from this man. Now they can see for themselves the full horror of his plan," said Peter Clarke, the head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch.
Barot, 34, planned a series of synchronized strikes in Britain - including a plan to blow up a subway car as it passed through a tunnel below the River Thames - as part of a plot to unleash a "memorable black day" of terror, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said British attacks were "imminent." They said Barot put the U.S. plot on hold after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
"... The conspiracy was in its final stages," prosecutor Edmund Lawson said.
In a detailed proposal submitted to al-Qaida financiers in Pakistan, Barot planned to use a six-man team to blow up limousines crammed with gas cylinders underneath parking garages - a plan that Barot said would kill "hundreds if the building collapses."
Lawson said Barot also wrote in documents that he wanted to add napalm and nails to the limousine bombs to "heighten the terror and chaos." He also considered adding radioactive material, Lawson said, but decided a dirty bomb should be used in a separate attack.
The former airline ticket clerk and Muslim convert pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to commit mass murder on both sides of the Atlantic. He is wanted in the United States and Yemen on separate terror-related charges.
After his sentencing, he will be temporarily transferred from his cell to the United States to face a four-count indictment, which includes a charge of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, according to a spokesman for the Home Office, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
Barot began plotting, in 2000, to attack a host of financial industry targets in the United States while also planning to detonate limousines packed with explosives in the underground parking lots of famous London hotels and train stations, prosecutors said.
London hotels such as The Ritz and The Savoy, and railway stations such as London's Waterloo, Paddington and King's Cross were identified as targets.
In a dramatic exchange Monday, Lawson showed clips of a reconnaissance video taken by Barot during a 2001 visit to New York.
The footage - shown on screens in the courthouse - zoomed in on the World Trade Center's towers as a man is heard mimicking the sound of an explosion. It was found spliced into a videotape copy of the movie "Die Hard With A Vengeance."
"It is memorable for its macabre prophecy," Lawson said, explaining that Barot was not believed to have had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11 terror attacks that killed an estimated 3,000 people.
Starting in 1995, Barot trained at terrorist camps in Pakistan, Kashmir, Malaysia and the Philippines - crisscrossing the globe to refine skills with weapons, bomb-making and chemicals, Lawson said.
He became quickly inspired to plot a "memorable black day for the enemies of Islam," Lawson said, quoting a passage from Barot's notebook.
Barot's plans were designed to kill "hundreds if not thousands of innocent people without warning," Lawson said.
Discovery of the U.S. plots led President George W. Bush to raise the U.S. terrorism threat level.
Under the alias Issa al-Britani, Barot was named in the report of the U.S. commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as an associate of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 planner.
The Associated Press, The British Broadcasting Corp., and Times Newspapers Ltd. successfully challenged a court ruling that threatened to prevent news media reporting details of Barot's sentencing hearing.
Butterfield had ruled that publishing details of the case could prejudice trials of Barot's seven co-defendants, scheduled to take place in London next year.
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