U.S. indicts three in alleged terror plot
Case linked to 2004 terror alerts in New York, Washington
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal authorities unsealed an indictment Tuesday against three men in British custody in connection with scouting financial targets in the United States as preparation for a possible terrorist attack.
Officials have identified the targets as the New York Stock Exchange and Citigroup Center in Manhattan, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington, and Prudential headquarters in Newark, New Jersey.
The three men -- all British nationals -- were arrested in England in August. At the time, U.S. law enforcement officials raised the terror threat level, citing evidence from "multiple sources" that al Qaeda members were planning another attack on the United States before Election Day. (Full story)
Deputy Attorney General James Comey told a news conference in Washington that the conspiracy began in 1998 and "was alive and kicking up until August 2004."
The four-count federal indictment, filed March 23, identified the men as Dhiren Barot, also known as Esa al-Hindi; Nadeem Tarmohamed; and Qaisar Shaffi.
All three men are accused of being involved in the alleged surveillance of U.S. targets in 2000 and 2001.
Several sources have described Barot as an al Qaeda operative. But Comey said the U.S. Justice Department has not alleged any connection between the three men and al Qaeda or the September 11 terror attacks.
When pressed by reporters, he said, "I didn't say there is no connection to al Qaeda. I said we have not alleged a connection to al Qaeda in this indictment."
The indictment accuses Barot of serving as a lead instructor at a jihad training camp in Afghanistan in or about 1998.
It also alleges that in 2000 Barot applied to a college in New York "to conceal the true purpose of his subsequent trips to the United States."
The indictment says that though admitted for the 2000 and 2001 school years, Barot never enrolled or attended classes.
The indictment charges each of the men with three counts of conspiracy -- to use weapons of mass destruction, to provide and conceal material support and resources, and to damage and destroy buildings used in interstate and foreign commerce.
The fourth count alleges that each of the men actually provided and concealed material resources to terrorists.
If convicted, Barot, Tarmohamed and Shaffi could face life imprisonment.
Their arrests by British authorities last August followed a series of arrests in Pakistan.
In July, a U.S. intelligence official said the arrest there of a 25-year-old computer expert with suspected ties to al Qaeda yielded a "treasure trove" of evidence that detailed potential attacks against financial targets.
The expert's computer contained hundreds of images that included photographs, drawings and layouts of various potential U.S. financial targets, a senior military official said last summer.
Some of the photos were years old and others were more recent, the official said. Some images showed underground garages, leading investigators to conclude those areas had been under surveillance.
Pakistani authorities said computer evidence led them to the suspects in Britain.
CNN's Kelli Arena and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.