LONDON -- Seven British members of a terrorist cell linked to al-Qaida were sentenced yesterday to as much as 26 years in prison for a plot to attack U.S. financial institutions, including the New York Stock Exchange, and a number of British targets.
Justice Alexander Butterfield ruled at their trial in April that the defendants were essential players in an extensive plot by Muslim convert Dharin Barot, who is serving a life sentence in England's highest-security prison and has been described by prosecutors as "a close associate or member of al-Qaida."
Butterfield said at Barot's sentencing in November that the plot was intended to cause "indiscriminate carnage, bloodshed and butchery" across the U.S. and Britain.
Prosecutors said the members of the sleeper cell worked under the direction of Barot, who spent three years traveling the United States, Europe and the Middle East collecting intelligence. A cell phone video taken by Barot documented a reconnaissance trip to New York before the Sept. 11 attacks, where he shot footage of targets such as the NYSE, the World Bank, Citigroup and the International Monetary Fund.
The video also shows Barot filming the World Trade Center. A voice in the background mimics the sound of an explosion as Barot tilts the phone sideways, simulating the twin towers coming down.
The seven served as couriers, drivers and engineers.
Butterfield sentenced Abdul Aziz Jalil to 26 years; Junade Feroze to 22 years; Mohammed Naveed Bhatti to 20 years; Nadeem Tarmohammed to 20 years; Mohammed Zia Ul Hag to 18 years; Omar Abdur Rehman to 15 years; and Qaisar Shaffi to 15 years.
All but Shaffi pleaded guilty. He was convicted Wednesday.
"They were some of the most dedicated, determined, well-trained, dangerous people who we've had to deal with," Peter Clarke, head of counterterrorism for the Metropolitan Police Service, told the BBC.
Officials believe Barot and his accomplices were just steps away from completing their plans for their attacks when he was arrested in 2004.
Alicia Lozano writes for the Los Angeles Times.