The Associated Press
NEW YORK- An al-Qaida operative conducting surveillance on U.S. soil in 2000 favored using a limousine packed with explosives or a hijacked oil tanker truck to attack financial institutions in Manhattan and New Jersey, police officials said.
''The most obvious technique to utilize, that comes to mind ... would be a limousine in the VIP underground car park,'' the operative, Dhiren Barot, wrote in a memo about the Prudential Building in Newark, N.J.
Police say Barot was fixated on the black sedans regularly used by corporate executives in New York because they were given easy access to parking around corporate areas.
The memo was quoted during a New York Police Department briefing Thursday on terror threats for private security officials from Wall Street firms and other businesses. The memo and briefing shed more light on the designs of Barot, a 34-year-old British convert to Islam who was sentenced to life in prison in Britain last week after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit mass murder.
In the memo, Barot also suggested that ''arson may be the best choice'' and advised ''ramming trucks (oil tankers, etc.) straight through the glass front entrance into the lobby area.''
Hijacking a truck ''will probably be much easier here in New Jersey than in New York since there is less security and no tunnels to pass through,'' added Barot, who spied on one location while sitting at a nearby Starbucks.
Prosecutors in Britain said Barot shelved the plan to attack the U.S. financial industry targets after Sept. 11, 2001, and instead focused on using limousines loaded with gas, napalm and nails to attack landmark London hotels and railway stations.
The proposals for the strikes in Britain and for those against the Prudential Building, the International Monetary Fund in Washington and the New York Stock Exchange and the Citigroup headquarters in New York were sent to al-Qaida leadership like ''corporate reports going to head office,'' a British judge said.
Investigators said they uncovered some of the evidence stored on computers seized at the home of an al-Qaida computer expert in Pakistan in July 2004, prompting the NYPD to heighten security around the city.