British Al-Qaida Sentenced to Life in Prison A British man described in court as an al-Qaida operative has been sentenced to life imprisonment for planning a series of bombings in Britain and the United States. Dhiren Barot planned to blow up the New York Stock Exchange, the World Bank and several famous London hotels.

British Al-Qaida Sentenced to Life in Prison

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

In Britain today, a man who plotted to blow up the New York Stock Exchange and detonate a so-called dirty bomb in London was jailed for life. Thirty-four-year-old Dhiren Barot has pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to commit murder.

NPR's Rob Gifford reports from London.

ROB GIFFORD: There was little in Dhiren Barot's background that might have hinted he would become involved in terrorism. Born in India, he moved with his parents to England at the age of 1 and was brought up as a Hindu in a quiet corner of suburban London. He is believed to have converted to Islam at the age of 20 and paid several visits to Pakistan in the late 1990s.

In September 1999, he traveled to the Philippines, where he's believed to have received training in explosives. Britain's home secretary, John Reid, used today's sentencing to highlight the continuing threat.

Mr. JOHN REID (Home Secretary, United Kingdom): Today's events and the severity of the sentence indicate the huge terrorist threat that is still facing this country, and we owe an equally huge debt of gratitude to the police and the security services for all that they have done. Had they not intervened, the awful consequences would have resonated throughout this country.

GIFFORD: The details of the plot came to light with the seizure of a computer belonging to a senior al-Qaida operative in Pakistan. On it were documents sent by Dhiren Barot, which detailed his likely targets. He visited the United States in the year 2000 and in 2001 and shot what were described as reconnaissance videos of financial targets such as the New York Stock Exchange and the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C.

After 9/11, however, Barot switched his focus to Britain, where he apparently planned to blow up an underground train while it traveled under the river Thames, detonate a dirty bomb in the center of London and attack several of the city's leading hotels. The head of the anti-terrorist branch of the London Police, Peter Clarke, said the case involved much more than just the evidence presented against Dhiren Barot.

Mr. PETER CLARKE (London Police): In this case, we've seized some 300 computers. There's a lot of material hidden within those computers. Some of it was encrypted, some of it still remains to be decoded. So we're still working on that, so yes, it is entirely possible that there could be more evidence.

GIFFORD: Barot pleaded guilty to the charges. Sentencing him, the judge said he was a determined and dedicated terrorist, a highly intelligent and extremely dangerous man, and he must serve at least 40 years in jail. Seven other men are due to stand trial in April in connection with the plot.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.

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