Brits Allege Qaeda Surveillance

Police on Tuesday charged eight men with conspiracy to murder and other terrorist offenses, two weeks after they were rounded up in raids connected to a sweep in Pakistan and terror alerts in the United States.

Some of the men were accused of possessing surveillance plans for buildings named in that U.S. alert.

A ninth man was charged with possession of a prohibited weapon.

All nine had been held at a high-security London police station since their arrest Aug. 3 on suspicion of being concerned in the "commission, preparation or instigation" of acts of terrorism.

Intelligence sources have said one of the suspects was a major al Qaeda operative known as Abu Eisa al-Hindi or Abu Musa al-Hindi, suspected of being involved in surveillance on prominent financial institutions in Washington, New York and New Jersey.

The name is believed to be an alias, and none of the suspects charged Tuesday was identified by that name.

Dhiren Barot, 32; Mohammed Naveed Bhatti, 24; Abdul Aziz Jalil, 31; Omar Abdul Rehman, 20; Junade Feroze, 28; Mohammed ul Haq, 25; Qaisar Shaffi, 25; and Nadeem Tarmohammed, 26 were all accused of conspiring together and with unknown persons to commit murder.

All eight also were charged with conspiracy to commit public nuisance by the use of radioactive materials, toxic gases, chemicals and/or explosives.

Barot and Tarmohammed were charged with possession a reconnaissance plan of the Prudential Building in the U.S. state of New Jersey, in violation of the Terrorism Act.

Barot was charged with possession of a reconnaissance plan concerning the New York Stock Exchange, the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C., the Citigroup building in New York, and two notebooks containing information on explosives, poisons, chemicals and related matters.

Shaffi was charged with possession an extract of the "Terrorist's Handbook" containing information on the preparation of chemicals, explosive recipes and other information.

The ninth man, Matthew Philip Monks, 32, was charged with possession of a prohibited weapon.

In all, 13 men, aged 19 to 32, were arrested on Aug. 3 in London, Bushey, Luton and in Blackburn in northwestern England. All were arrested "on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism," and were brought to London for questioning, the Metropolitan Police said.

Under Britain's Terrorism Act, passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, police were allowed detain the men for up to two weeks without charge.

Two were released without charge, and two others were eliminated as terrorist suspects and re-arrested on suspicion of possessing forged documents.

Attorney General John Ashcroft commended the arrests, saying the Justice Department has been working closely with its British counterparts. He said U.S. prosecutors would review the evidence to see if charges should be brought in the United States.

"Working with our allies, we will continue to take every measure to protect the people of the United States and safeguard their liberties, in this time of heightened terrorist threat," Ashcroft said in a statement.

The detentions in Britain were part of a series of counter-terrorism actions taken in the weeks following two key arrests in Pakistan.

Pakistani officials have said that information from Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, an al Qaeda computer engineer who was captured on July 13 in Lahore, led to the arrests in London and the arrest of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian with a $25 million bounty on his head for his role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa.

Ghailani was arrested along with 13 other foreigners during a raid in the eastern Pakistani city of Gujrat on July 25. In recent weeks, Pakistani police and security agencies have detained about 30 terror suspects.

Computer files uncovered in Pakistan contained surveillance information of five financial sites in New York, Washington and Newark, N.J. The United States issued a terror alert based on that information.

Some have questioned whether the warnings were politically motivated to strengthen President Bush's image as commander in chief in an election year.

But the Bush administration believes it has undermined al Qaeda's plans. Officials have said Khan was in contact with al Qaeda operatives who are plotting to disrupt the fall elections.

The administration has warned since May that the terrorist network might target the United States during the run-up to the November vote.

Some of the surveillance uncovered in Pakistan was conducted before the Sept. 11 attacks, prompting doubts about the seriousness of the threat. But administration officials said in published reports that other information obtained at the same time as the files pointed to a current risk of attack.