U.S. officials announced Tuesday that three men arrested by authorities in Britain last August have now been charged with plotting to attack financial institutions in the United States. A federal grand jury indicted three British nationals on charges of conspiracy to carry out terrorist attacks inside the United States and on charges of providing material support to terrorists.
The three men, Dhiren Barot, Qaisar Shaffi and Nadeem Tarmohammed, were taken into custody last year in Britain after being accused of being involved in terrorist activity there.
U.S. prosecutors say the three men began conducting surveillance on several buildings inside the United States more than a year before the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
"The indictment specifically alleges that these three men entered the United States in 2000 and 2001 and conducted surveillance of the International Monetary Fund headquarters and the World Bank headquarters here in Washington, D.C., the Prudential Corporate Plaza and world headquarters building in Newark, New Jersey, and the New York Stock Exchange building and Citicorp Center in New York City," he said.
U.S. officials have said in the past that they believe Mr. Barot was a high-level operative with al-Qaida. Mr. Comey says the indictment unsealed Tuesday did not provide an express link with the organization, though he added that more information would come out at trial.
U.S. officials say they expect the three men to be extradited to the United States for prosecution after they go through criminal trials in Britain.
If convicted of the charges, they could face life in prison.
Deputy Attorney General Comey said the terror plot targeting financial buildings in the United States was ongoing until last August when the three men were arrested in Britain.
He also said the case is the latest example of how long suspected terrorists are willing to wait before launching an attack.
"Today's indictment sends a message about our resolve to terrorists," he said. "We will continue to use all tools at our disposal to protect our nation from the acts of terrorists and to prosecute those who plot to harm us, whether those individuals are found in the United States or overseas."
After the three men were arrested in Britain last August, Homeland Security officials raised the terror alert level from elevated to high in the New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. areas. The alert levels were lowered last November.