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|Would-be NYC subway bomber Najibullah Zazi to be released on time served|
|[NYPost] A Queens man caught preparing for a 9/11 anniversary suicide on the subways under Grand Central will soon walk out of prison thanks to a sentence that amounts to his time already served, a judge ruled Thursday.|
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|International bomb plotter jailed for 40 years in US|
|A Pakistani man extradited from the UK to the US has been sentenced to 40 years in jail for plotting attacks in several countries. Abid Naseer, 29, was sentenced by a federal judge in New York.|
US authorities said he had been part of a plot to attack Manchester, New York City and Copenhagen.
In March, a jury found him guilty of providing material support to al-Qaeda and conspiracy to use a destructive device.
FBI assistant director-in-charge Diego Rodriguez said that Naseer, who moved to the UK to study, failed to use the British education visa system to make the best of his life. Instead, he exploited it "to take away the lives of many others in large numbers", said Mr Rodriguez.
Naseer was first arrested in the UK in 2009, along with 11 other men, suspected of planning a bomb attack on the Arndale shopping centre in Manchester over the Easter weekend. No explosives were found but the men were ordered to leave the country. Mr Naseer avoided deportation after a judge ruled it was likely he would not be safe if he returned to Pakistan.
Abid Naseer says he's not guilty. He defended himself throughout the trial, but his legal advisers say they'll appeal - and not just against the sentence which they believe is overly harsh. They say this was not a fair trial and Naseer should have appeared in court in the UK, not in front of a jury in a post 9/11 New York.
But US prosecutors say the 29-year-old was capable of mass murder. They say he remains a threat and they're delighted by the sentence. They hope it sends a message to terrorists that they will be caught and they will be put behind bars for life.
Naseer appealed to the judge that he was not - nor had he ever been - a "career criminal". But Judge Raymond Dearie had a response.
"I know you're not," he replied. "You're a terrorist."
UK officials arrested him again in 2010 at the request of US prosecutors. In 2013 he was extradited to the US, where prosecutors argued Naseer was part of a broader al-Qaeda conspiracy to attack various Western locations, including the New York subway system and a newspaper office in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The US Department of Justice said the plots were "directed by and co-ordinated with senior al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan".
Evidence at Naseer's trial included a document found in the raid of the Bin Laden compound and MI5 officers testifying in wigs. His defence was largely based on his own testimony and cross-examining prosecution witnesses.
Prosecutors brought in MI5 agents who had previously tracked Naseer in 2009 at a shopping centre in the UK. They also relied on the testimony of two co-conspirators who pleaded guilty to the subway plot - Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay. Prosecutors say coded emails show all three men were under the direction of the same al-Qaeda handler.
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|Extradited al Qaeda suspect pleads not guilty in US court|
|[Dawn] A Pak man accused of taking part in an international al Qaeda plot to attack targets in the United States and Europe to terrorism charges during his first US court appearance Monday in New York.|
Abid Naseer, 26, was extradited on Thursday from to Brooklyn, New York. He is facing up to life in prison on charges including providing material support to al Qaeda and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in connection with an alleged plot to bomb a city center in Manchester, England.
The charges against Naseer are also connected to an alleged al Qaeda plot in 2009 to bomb the subway system in New York City, US prosecutors said. Two men, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, have pleaded guilty to planning the attacks and a third man, Adis Medunjanin, was sentenced to life in prison after his conviction last year for taking part in the plot.
During a brief court appearance in Brooklyn federal court, Naseer, wearing a bright blue t-shirt and black sneakers, pleaded not guilty to the charges through his court-appointed lawyer. The judge ordered Naseer to be held in detention without bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for March 7.
Naseer is one of a dozen men, mostly students from Pakistain, who were in in 2009 on suspicion of plotting to bomb a city center in Manchester. British authorities conducted daylight raids on the suspects' homes after 's most senior counter-terrorism official was photographed openly carrying details about the operation.
British authorities said they found large quantities of flour and oil in the suspects' homes, as well as highlighted surveillance photographs of public areas in Manchester and a map of the city center.
Naseer and the other suspects were never charged, but British and US authorities said Naseer was part of a broader al Qaeda cell bent on staging attacks in the United States and Scandinavia.
Naseer was indicted in Brooklyn federal court in 2010, along with Medunjanin and other individuals alleged to be linked through a multi-national al Qaeda conspiracy.
US prosecutors said Naseer and Zazi coordinated their plans through emails to the same Pakistain-based al Qaeda , "Ahmad," using similar code words to discuss explosives and the timing of their respective plots.
Naseer was re-arrested by British authorities in 2010 after a US warrant was issued. He fought extradition, saying he feared he could be sent from the US to Pakistain and subjected there to torture. Naseer's appeal was rejected last month by the European Court of Human Rights, paving the way for him to stand trial in the United States.
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|NYC Subway bomb plotter sentenced to life + 95 years|
|A man who was convicted of plotting with two friends to carry out a coordinated on New York City subways was sentenced to life in prison on Friday.|
Federal authorities deemed the plan one of the most dangerous terrorist plots against the city.
The man, Adis Medunjanin, 28, who was born in Bosnia and grew up in Queens, was considered the heart and soul of the plot -- though not its -- the one whose increasingly radical beliefs in Islam inspired him and two high school friends to participate in jihad They went to Pakistain with the hope of joining the Taliban in the fight against American troops and wound up at a training camp run by Al Qaeda.
Although his two friends, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, pleaded guilty to participating in the plot, Mr. Medunjanin maintained his innocence and went to trial. He was convicted of conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and conspiring to commit murder abroad, as well as of providing material support to Al Qaeda and receiving military training from Al Qaeda, among other charges..
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|New York Bomb Plotter Convicted on Terror Charges|
|[An Nahar] An American who U.S. officials said was an al-Qaeda operative was convicted Tuesday on terrorism charges for plotting with two accomplices to launch suicide s in the New York subway system.|
Adis Medunjanin, a resident of Queens, New York, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison after being convicted of conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and providing material support to al-Qaeda, among other charges.
Judge John Gleeson was scheduled to sentence the 28-year-old Medunjanin on September 7.
Medunjanin "came within days of executing a plot to conduct coordinated s in the New York City subway system in September 2009, as directed by senior al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistain," the Justice Department said.
"Justice was served today ... as a jury of New Yorkers convicted an al-Qaeda operative bent on terrorism, mass murder and destruction in the New York City subways," said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch.
"Adis Medunjanin's journey of radicalization led him from Flushing, Queens, to , Pakistain, to the brink of a terrorist attack in New York City -- and soon to a lifetime in federal prison.
"As this case has proved, working against sophisticated terrorist organizations and against the clock, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies can detect, disrupt and destroy terrorist cells before they strike, saving countless innocent lives," she stressed.
The Bosnia-born Medunjanin, whose family to the United States during the war with Serbia in the 1990s, was also convicted of conspiring to commit murder of U.S. military personnel abroad; taking military training from al-Qaeda; conspiring and attempting to commit terror across national boundaries, and using arms in relation to these offenses, the statement said.
The other two men in the alleged plot, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, have already pleaded guilty and testified against their old friend in hopes that cooperation with prosecutors would earn them lighter sentences.
The three friends were in many ways typical New Yorkers, striving to live the immigrant dream.
Medunjanin was a doorman, Ahmedzay drove a yellow cab, and Zazi was a coffee cart vendor before moving to Colorado, where he drove an airport shuttle bus in Denver.
When the subway bomb plot was foiled, Medunjanin crashed his car into another on the Whitestone Expressway, attempting to "turn his car into a weapon of terror," the Justice Department said.
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|British shoe-bomb suspect testifies at NYC trial|
|[Dawn] In a videotaped deposition made public for the first time Thursday, a British man convicted in an aborted shoe-bombing mission admitted meeting with after deciding to fight jihad against the West.|
US prosecutors and defense attorneys interviewed Saajid Badat just outside London late last month in preparation for the New York trial of Adis Medunjanin, accused in the 2009 plot to attack New York's subways with suicide bombs.
Badat said that he refused a request to testify in person because he remains under indictment in Boston on charges alleging he conspired with shoe-bomber Richard Reid.
"If I go to the United States, I'll be ," Badat said on the tape played for a jury on Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn.
British authorities had revealed earlier this week that Badat would have a role in the Medunjanin prosecution, calling him the first person convicted in the United Kingdom on terrorism charges to agree to give evidence at the trial of alleged terrorists.
Badat, 33, pleaded guilty in to plotting with Reid to bring down separate American trans-Atlantic flights using bombs hidden in their shoes.
Unlike Reid, he backed out at the last minute.
"I agreed to take an explosive on an aircraft and explode it," he said in the video, looking clean-cut and wearing a suit.
He also testified that he had "direct interaction" with bin Laden "more than once" after traveling to Afghanistan in 1999.
At the time, he knew the terror network as "The Sheik's Group," with "sheik" referring to bin Laden.
Medunjanin is accused of traveling to Pakistain with two friends from his Queens high school in 2008 and receiving terror training from al-Qaeda
Prosecutors allege the men, including acknowledged Najibullah Zazi, agreed to seek martyrdom by dying as s in an attack on Manhattan subway lines at rush hour.
Medunjanin, 27, a Bosnian-born naturalized US citizen, has to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, providing material support to a terrorist organization and other charges.
He has denied he was ever part of an al-Qaeda operation.
Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay pleaded guilty to the plot in 2010 and were without bail after agreeing to become government witnesses in a bid for leniency.
Both testified against Medunjanin earlier this week.
Badat had no involvement with the men.
Prosecutors instead want to use his testimony to corroborate what Zazi and Ahmedzay have said about al-Qaeda's leadership and training methods.
The British-born son of Malawi immigrants, Badat was 21 when he traveled to both Afghanistan and Pakistain.
While in Afghanistan, he was given an designed to evade airport security and destroy an aircraft in flight, authorities said.
Badat returned to with the device on Dec 10, 2001.
He ended up stashing the bomb under a bed in his family home in Gloucester, England, and resumed his academic studies.
He later told authorities he backed out because he was hoping "to introduce calm into his life."
British intelligence tracked down Badat two years later and after matched cords on Reid's device to those on Badat's bomb.
Badat was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
But British authorities announced this week that in 2009 a judge secretly reduced his sentence to 11 years to reward him for his cooperation in terror investigations.
The Brooklyn jury only heard about the first 10 minutes of the videotape, which lasts more than two hours.
The rest will be played when the trial resumes on Monday.
Reid attempted to bring down a plane in December 2001 and is serving a life sentence in a high-security US prison.
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|NYC Trial Details Terror Planning|
|Defendant Who Pleaded Guilty Describes al Qaeda Training, Subway Bomb Plot|
The characterization came during opening statements in a trial in Brooklyn federal court which one of the men, Adis Medunjanin, is accused of receiving training by the terrorist organization while in Pakistain and returning to the U.S. with orders to launch a devastating attack.
Mr. Medunjanin has to counts including conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to commit an act of terrorism, conspiring to commit murder abroad and conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
He is the only one of the suspects who didn't plead guilty. His
The trial is notable in that unlike many other terrorism cases, the defendants weren't caught as a part of a federal sting. Instead, the prosecutors said Monday, the attack was fully operational rather than aspirational.
"These men came so close, within days of carrying out this attack," said James Loonam, assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District.
His attorney, Robert Gottlieb, said his client was seeking to support the Taliban fighting the U.S. in Afghanistan
"The truth is that Adis Medunjanin is not a terrorist," Mr. Gottlieb said. "In this case, the government is just wrong."
Testimony on Monday began with Mr. Ahmedzay detailing his friendship with Messrs. Medunjanin and Zazi. The three had attended high school together in the New York borough of Queens, and in 2008 they "made a covenant to go to Afghanistan and fight with the mujahedeen against American forces," he said.
Mr Ahmedzay said the three were told they would be more valuable as s in the U.S. and were given training in use of weapons, Mr. Ahmedzay said. Their handlers encouraged them to identify targets in the U.S. and execute a "mission" during the presidency of George W. Bush, he told the court.
He said the men accepted the mission and began planning it.
The original plan called for a car-bomb targeting major New York landmarks such as Grand Central Terminal, Times Square and the New York Stock Exchange, the witness said. But when Mr. Zazi said he couldn't build a big enough bomb because he had lost a page of his notes,
The attack was abandoned when Mr. Zazi realized he was being watched by federal and local authorities while on a car trip to New York.
Mr. Ahmedzay said he lied repeatedly to the FBI during the investigation and destroyed evidence.
"You would be willing to kill, to set off a bomb, but you wouldn't lie to a jury?" he asked the witness.
Noting that Mr. Ahmedzay faces a range of no prison time to life, Mr. Gottlieb asked Mr. Ahmedzay how much time he hopes to serve in exchange for his testimony.
"I hope to get that zero years you mentioned, sir," the witness replied.
Mr. Zazi, who was described by authorities as the leader of the cell at the time of his arrest, was expected to testify Tuesday..
Ahmedzay testified they discussed potential targets with their al-Qaida handlers in Pakistan, including Times Square, the New York Stock Exchange, Grand Central Station and Pennsylvania Station, but did not settle on a definite one. The goal, he said, was to strike a crowded subway station during rush hour, to maximize civilian casualties.
Medunjanin's lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, said Medunjanin never intended to hurt anyone when he crashed his car into another vehicle on a New York City bridge just after calling a police emergency line to say that he "loved death more than you love your life."
Prosecutors termed that a jihadist slogan, but Gottlieb told the jury that Medunjanin meant only to kill himself, rather than be falsely branded as a Muslim terrorist.
According to Zazi and Ahmedzay, who also pleaded guilty, the trio became close friends after high school, bonding over their dedication to Islam - and to the Internet lectures of radical Imams. As they grew angry at the American presence in Afghanistan, they decided to go there to fight to the death - toperform jihad, as Zazi testified.
Zazi, who operated a food cart in New York, said he used more than 10 different credit cards to buy cameras, computers, jewelry and airline tickets to Pakistan in 2008.
The prosecution plans also to put on the stand two other confessed terrorists, including Saajid Muhammad Badat, a Briton convicted of plotting to use a shoe bomb to blow up an airliner.
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|NY Trial Details Terror Planning|
NYC subway plotter: Bombmaking 'very simple'
NEW YORK (AP) -- The admitted mastermind of one of the most serious terror threats since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- a foiled plot to attack New York City subways -- testified Wednesday that al-Qaida trainers taught him a "very simple" formula for making suicide bombs.
After being recruited by the terror network and taken to a compound in the South Waziristan region of Pakistan, Najibullah Zazi said he learned how to mix chemicals found in nail polish remover and other products sold at beauty supply stores.
"It was very simple and they're everywhere," he said of the chemicals.
Zazi, 26, was testifying for a second day at the trial of Adis Medunjanin in federal court in Brooklyn.
Prosecutors allege that Medunjanin, Zazi and another former high school classmate from Queens, Zarein Ahmedzay, formed a terror cell that posed one of the most ominous terror threats since 9/11.
Trial Details Terror Planning
NEW YORK--Three former high-school classmates were perilously close to implementing an al Qaeda-inspired plan to detonate suicide bombs in New York City's subways before they were thwarted in 2009, federal prosecutors told a packed courtroom Monday.
The characterization came during opening statements in a trial in Brooklyn federal court which one of the men, Adis Medunjanin, is accused of receiving training by the terrorist organization while in Pakistan and returning to the U.S. with orders to launch a devastating attack.
New York Bombing Plot 'Mastermind' Testifies Against Friend
A Bosnian-born immigrant in New York accused on nine terrorism counts heard a second friend testify that he was a willing participant in a suicide bombing plot in New York City.
According to Najibullah Zazi, the confessed mastermind of the foiled 2009 subway bomb plot, accused terrorist Adis Medunjanin "was a role model to us," because he was most knowledgeable in Islam. Zazi, who earlier pleaded guilty, is one of two former friends testifying in the federal trial of Medunjanin, 27.
Trial Opens for Alleged New York Bomb Plotter
A Bosnian immigrant accused in a subway bombing terrorism plot has gone on trial in federal court in New York City. He faces life in prison if convicted on all nine counts, including conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction. A federal jury in Brooklyn is hearing the terrorism case against 27-year-old Bosnian-born Adis Medunjanin, who allegedly conspired with two former high school friends to bomb New York subways in 2009.
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|Subway Terror Plot Had Global Reach|
|Federal prosecutors charged a senior al Qaeda leader Wednesday with helping to mastermind last year's attempted bombing of New York City's subway and said the effort was part of a larger plot that included a failed terrorist attempt in the U.K.|
Three suspected al Qaeda members were arrested in Europe Thursday morning in what Norwegian and U.S. officials said was a bombing plot linked to the New York and U.K. plans.
In an indictment unveiled in federal court in Brooklyn Wednesday, prosecutors said 34-year-old Adnan el Shukrijumah, described as a leader of an al Qaeda program dedicated to terrorist attacks in the U.S. and other Western countries, "recruited and directed" three U.S. citizens to carry out suicide bombings in Manhattan in September 2009.
The indictment also charged Abid Naseer and Tariq ur Rehman, who were previously arrested by authorities in the U.K. as part of a raid in relation to suspected terrorist activity there. Prosecutors said the two cases were "directly related." The charges underscored "the global nature of the terrorist threat we face," said David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security.
On Wednesday, U.K. police again arrested Mr. Naseer, who is 24 years old and of Pakistani descent, in Middlesbrough, in the northeast of England, according to a police spokesman. Mr. Rehman isn't in custody and is believed to be in Pakistan. The last known lawyer for Mr. Naseer didn't respond to requests for comment. Mr. Rehman, 39, reached in Peshawar, North East Pakistan, said: "Of course I deny all these charges. Of course I will fight my case."
A day later, three men were arrested on suspicion of "preparing terror activities," the Norwegian Police Security Service said. Two of the men were arrested in Norway and one in Germany, said Janne Kristiansen, the head of Police Security Service. She said one of the men was a 39-year-old Norwegian of Uighur origin, who had lived in Norway since 1999. The other suspects were a 37-year-old Iraqi and a 31-year-old citizen of Uzbekistan, both of whom have permanent residency permits in Norway. The three had been under surveillance for more than a year.
Officials told the Associated Press that the men were attempting to make portable but powerful peroxide bombs, but it wasn't clear whether they had selected a target for the attacks. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they believe the plan was organized by Salah al-Somali, al Qaeda's former chief of external operations who was charge of plotting attacks world-wide but is believed to have been killed in a CIA drone airstrike last year.
U.S. prosecutors, meanwhile, said the New York and U.K. plots were directly linked by a man identified in court documents as "Ahmad," who was also charged on Wednesday, though he wasn't in custody and prosecutors said his identity was unknown. Prosecutors said Ahmad transported Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan native who worked as an airport shuttle driver in Colorado, and two others to Waziristan, Pakistan, so they could receive training. Mr. Shukrijumah recruited them at a camp there, prosecutors said.
The indictment, unveiled on the fifth anniversary of bombings in London's transport network, said that Mr. Shukrijumah, together with others, including Mr. al-Somali recruited individuals to conduct a terrorist attack in the U.S.
Authorities in the U.S. have been searching for Mr. Shukrijumah, a Saudi Arabia native, for several years and are offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. They are planning to put him on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's most-wanted list as early as Thursday.
Prosecutors described Ahmad as an "al Qaeda facilitator" and said he communicated separately with Mr. Naseer and Mr. Zazi, who were in Pakistan in the same period in 2008, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors said Mr. Naseer sent emails to the same account that Ahmad allegedly used to communicate with Mr. Zazi. Mr. Naseer referred to different explosives in coded language and spoke of planning a large "wedding" for numerous guests in April 2009, and said Ahmad should be ready, prosecutors alleged. A similar code, meaning an attack was ready to be executed, was used by Mr. Zazi when he discussed the planned New York attack with Ahmad, prosecutors said.
When Mr. Naseer and Mr. Rehman were arrested in the U.K. last year as part of a bigger raid that also led to the arrests of 10 others, U.K. authorities found large quantities of flour and oil, as well as surveillance photographs of public areas in Manchester, according to U.S. authorities.
But "Operation Pathway," which led to the arrests, was carried out prematurely after the U.K.'s top counterterrorism official at the time, Bob Quick, was photographed entering No. 10 Downing Street carrying documents that clearly identified key aspects of the operation. All of the men who were arrested were released without charge due to what U.K. prosecutors believed had been insufficient evidence.
British authorities tried to deport 11 of the men arrested, saying they posed a threat to national security. Mr. Naseer won an appeal in May in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission that stopped his deportation back to Pakistan. The U.S. government is seeking to extradite Mr. Naseer, according to London's Metropolitan police service.
In February, Mr. Zazi pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and other charges. He admitted that he drove to New York last September with explosives and other bomb-making materials and intended to carry out an attack on Manhattan subway lines.
Two other men, Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin, allegedly traveled to Pakistan with Mr. Zazi. In April, Mr, Ahmedzay pleaded guilty to conspiracy and providing material support to al Qaeda.
Mr. Medunjanin, a part-time building superintendent in Queens, N.Y., has denied wrongdoing and is fighting the charges. Wednesday's indictment adds additional terrorism charges against Mr. Medunjanin, who was arrested in January after allegedly attempting to crash his car into another car on the Whitestone Expressway in Queens as a last attempt to carry out a suicide attack on American soil.
"There's nothing new in the indictment as it pertains to Mr. Medunjanin," said his lawyer, Robert C. Gottlieb. "The government from Day One threatened to add charges as well as defendants." He said his client isn't guilty and intends to proceed to trial.
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|Imam entangled in terrorism case leaves US|
|[Dawn] The imam entangled in the investigation into a suicide bomb plot against New York City subway stations left the US Monday, after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI. Among his final words on US soil, his lawyer says, were "God bless America."|
Ahmad Wais Afzali and his wife Fatima took off on a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight to Jeddah and then will go on to Mecca, where Fatima got a job teaching English, said the lawyer, Ron Kuby. Afzali, who was born in Afghanistan but spent most of his life in Queens, isn't sure what he's going to do there, Kuby said.
Afzali, under the terms of his plea April 15, was sentenced to time served - four days - but ordered to leave the country in 90 days.
Authorities sought help last fall from the imam, a previously reliable police source, as they scrambled to thwart the plot by Najibullah Zazi, an airport van driver who pleaded guilty in the case.
The 38-year-old imam said he had wanted to help authorities in the investigation of the threat but lied under grilling by the FBI about his phone conversations Zazi.
Afzali lied when he said he never told Zazi that he was under surveillance in New York.
Afzali said that he never meant to aide Zazi or deceive the government.
"It was not just something he said at sentencing, he genuinely loves this country very much," Kuby said. "Unfortunately he was caught in a turf battle between the NYPD and the FBI."
Afzali cannot return to the US without special permission. If he does, he is subject to additional charges and could be deported to Afghanistan.
Najibullah Zazi and two friends were arrested in September 2009 before, prosecutors said, they could carry out a trio of suicide bombings in Manhattan. Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay have pleaded guilty and admitted planning to detonate homemade bombs on the subway during rush hour. A third man, Adis Medunjanin, awaits trial.
Zazi is cooperating with investigators, key developments that prosecutors hope will help them trace the plot back to its roots in Pakistan, where Zazi and former friends from high school allegedly traveled in 2008 to seek terror training.
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|US officials link Shukrijumah to New York plot|
|Current and former counter-terrorism officials of the United States have linked Adnan Shukrijumah, one of the most wanted persons, to thwarted plot to bomb the subway system in New York City last year, authorities said.|
The officials said Shukrijumah, top al Qaeda operative, met with one of the would-be suicide bombers in a plot that Attorney General Eric Holder called one of the most dangerous since the 9/11 attacks. In Brooklyn, federal prosecutors have named Shukrijumah in a draft terrorism indictment but the Justice Department was still discussing whether to cite his role.
Some officials feared that the extra attention might hinder efforts to capture him. The involvement of Shukrijumah shows how important the (subway bombing) plot was to al Qaeda's senior leadership. Intelligence officials believe Shukrijumah is one of the top candidates to become al Qaeda's next head of external operations, the man in charge of planning attacks worldwide.
The counter-terrorism officials discussed the case on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak about it. Shukrijumah, 34, has eluded the FBI for years. The Saudi-born operative studied at a community college in Florida, but when the FBI showed up to arrest him as a witness to a terrorism case in 2003, he already had left the country. The US is offering $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
Intelligence officials started unraveling the subway plot last year, when US intelligence intercepted an electronic mail from an account that al Qaeda had used in a recent terrorist plot, officials said. The mail discussed bomb-making techniques and was sent to an address in Denver, setting off alarms within the CIA and the FBI from Islamabad to the US.
Najibullah Zazi and two friends were arrested in September 2009 before, prosecutors said, they could carry out a trio of suicide bombings in Manhattan. Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay have pleaded guilty and admitted planning to detonate homemade bombs on the subway during rush hour. A third man, Adis Medunjanin, awaits trial. A fourth suspect, known as Ahmed, traded the emails with Zazi, who was frantically trying to perfect his bomb-making recipe, the officials said.
The US wants to bring the Pakistani man to the US for trial on charges that are not yet public. The CIA learned valuable information about al Qaeda and its operations from Ahmed. The officials in Pakistan have also arrested a fifth person, known as Afridi, who worked with Ahmed, the officials said. The FBI and the US attorney's office in Brooklyn had no comment.
The US officials told The Associated Press about how the men hooked up with al Qaeda. The new account provides a rare glimpse into the recruiting process. The trio's lengthy odyssey took them from their homes in Queens to the mountainous tribal areas in northwest Pakistan. The prosecutors said the men, motivated by their anger at the war in Afghanistan, travelled to Peshawar in the summer of 2008 to fight against the US forces.
Before splitting up, the men stayed at the house of Zazi's uncle. Zazi remained in Peshawar while Ahmedzay and Medunjanin headed into Afghanistan where they hoped to join the fight against the Americans, they said. But Ahmedzay and Medunjanin never made it. They were stopped at a roadblock and briefly detained by the police who were suspicious of their Western looks and their US passports.
The two men talked their way out of the bind, however, and the police never contacted the US about it, the officials said. Undeterred, the men regrouped in Peshawar and were recruited to meet an al Qaeda facilitator at local mosque in Peshawar. While al Qaeda was eager to recruit Americans, the group was also deeply suspicious of the trio and wanted to make sure they were not US spies.
Once they passed that initial test, Ahmed drove them to North Waziristan and delivered them to a rudimentary terrorist camp. The three received weapons training, but al Qaeda had bigger plans for the men than the Afghanistan front line. Salah al-Somali, then the head of external operations, and Rashid Rauf, a British national linked to a 2006 jetliner bomb plot, explained to the three men that they were more useful as bombers in the US.
It was at that camp that the US officials believe Ahmedzay, and perhaps the other two men, met Shukrijumah. In 2004, then attorney general John Ashcroft called Shukrijumah a clear and present danger to the US. Abu Zubaydah told US authorities that Shukrijumah was among the most likely candidates to attack the US or Europe. The trio completed about two weeks of training and left the camp with the promise of returning. But only Zazi made the trip back to Waziristan to take a course on explosives.
In early 2009, Zazi flew to New York and moved to Denver, armed with bomb-making notes. Unlike the Sept 11, 2001, attacks they chose the target, not Osama bin Laden. The emails that tipped off US intelligence triggered "Operation High Rise," an FBI investigation that had to come together within days. Agents scrambled as Zazi sped toward New York on September 9, armed with about two pounds of the powerful explosive.
He was stopped on the George Washington Bridge, but authorities failed to find the explosive material (TATP) stashed in a bag in the trunk. Spooked after the traffic stop, Zazi gave the TATP to Ahmedzay, who flushed it down the toilet. That week, the FBI raided the homes of all three friends, bringing a swift end to the plot.
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|Guilty plea over NYC subway plot|
|A New York man has pleaded guilty to terror charges in connection with a plot to set off suicide bombs in the city's subway system. Zarein Ahmedzay admitted conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and providing support to al-Qaeda, in a plea entered in a court in New York. |
US officials have called it one of the most serious threats since 9/11.
Ahmedzay, 25, originally entered a not guilty plea after his arrest in January. He was picked up with another classmate, Adis Medunjanin, who is facing similar charges.
Prosecutors say the three were planning an attack on city subway lines last September under the direction of al-Qaeda that would have been similar to the 2005 attacks on public transit in London, which killed more than 50 people.
Prosecutors have said Ahmedzay, Zazi and Mr Medunjanin all travelled to Pakistan in 2008 to look for terrorism training.
At the Brooklyn hearing, Assistant US Attorney Geoffrey Knox said the plotters had met two senior al-Qaeda operatives who ordered them to carry out the suicide bombings. Mr Knox identified the leaders as Saleh al-Somali and Rashid Rauf, both of whom were killed in Pakistan over the past year.