An al-Qaeda operative, who on the direction of the terror group's leaders in Pakistan conspired to bomb the city's subway systems, Times Square and New York Stock Exchange in one of the most serious plots since the 9/11 attacks, has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Queens resident Adis Medunjanin, 34 and his accomplices came within days of executing a plot to conduct coordinated suicide bombings in the New York City subway system in September 2009, as directed by senior al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch said.
He also discussed with his co-conspirators possible target locations in Manhattan, including the subway system, Grand Central Terminal, the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square and movie theaters.
Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco termed Medunjanin's plot as "one of the most serious terrorist plots against the US homeland since 9/11".
Lynch said when Medunjanin's terror plot was foiled, he attempted to commit a terrorist attack by crashing his car on a New York expressway to kill himself and others.
Medunjanin was sentenced to life imprisonment for multiple federal terrorism offenses here yesterday.
"Medunjanin sought martyrdom for himself and death for innocent New Yorkers as part of al Qaeda's plan to spread terror within our shores. Instead, he will now spend the rest of his life where he belongs, behind bars," Lynch said.
According to the government's evidence at trial, Medunjanin and his co-plotters Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay travelled to Afghanistan in 2008 to join the Taliban and kill US military personnel abroad.
They arrived in Pakistan in late August 2008 but Medunjanin and Ahmedzay were turned back at the Afghanistan border. Within days, Medunjanin, Zazi, and Ahmedzay met with an al Qaeda facilitator in Peshawar and agreed to travel to Waziristan for terrorist training.
In Waziristan, they met al Qaeda leaders Saleh al-Somali, then the head of the group's external operations, and Rashid Rauf, a high-ranking al-Qaeda operative, who explained that the three would be more useful to al Qaeda and the jihad by returning to New York and conducting terrorist attacks.
They received al Qaeda training in Pakistan on how to use various types of high-powered weapons, including the AK-47, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
During the training, al Qaeda leaders continued to encourage Medunjanin and his fellow plotters to return to the US to conduct a "martyrdom" operation and emphasised the need to hit well-known targets and maximise number of casualties.
Medunjanin, Zazi, and Ahmedzay agreed to carry out suicide bombings in New York during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which fell in late August and September 2009.
Zazi took charge of preparing the explosives, and all three agreed to conduct coordinated suicide bombings.
In July and August 2009, Zazi purchased large quantities of the component chemicals necessary to produce deadly explosives and twice checked into a hotel room near Denver to mix the chemicals.
Federal investigators later found bomb-making residue in the hotel room.
In September 2009, Zazi drove from Denver to New York carrying operational detonator explosives and other materials necessary to build the suicide bombs.
However, shortly after arriving in New York, he learned that law enforcement was closing in on the plotters.
In an unsuccessful effort to avoid detection, the men discarded the explosives and other bomb-making materials, and Zazi traveled back to Denver, where he was arrested.