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Al Qaeda planned twin US-Britain attacks

New indictment adds key suspect to N.Y. bomb plot

Adnan Shukrijumah was directly involved in recruiting for and plotting the New York attack, prosecutors said. Adnan Shukrijumah was directly involved in recruiting for and plotting the New York attack, prosecutors said.
By Tom Hays and Matt Apuzzo
Associated Press / July 8, 2010

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NEW YORK — A plot to set off bombs in the New York subway system last year was part of a larger Al Qaeda conspiracy that included a similar attack planned in England, US prosecutors said yesterday.

In an indictment unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, prosecutors added several Al Qaeda figures to the case, including Adnan Shukrijumah, who is on the FBI’s most-wanted list.

Shukrijumah, one of the Al Qaeda leaders in charge of plotting attacks worldwide, was directly involved in recruiting for and plotting the New York attack, prosecutors said. Attorney General Eric Holder has called that plot one of the most dangerous since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The indictment added new terrorism charges against Adis Medunjanin, who already was awaiting trial in the subway case. It also named three other men — Abid Naseer, Tariq Ur Rehman, and an alleged Al Qaeda operative in Pakistan known only as “Ahmad’’ — and linked them to a previously undisclosed companion plot in England.

“These charges underscore the global nature of the terrorist threat we face,’’ said David Kris, the Justice Department’s top national security prosecutor.

The Associated Press reported last week that authorities believed Shukrijumah was involved in the subway plot, and that Ahmad is in Pakistani custody.

Medunjanin and two other US citizens were arrested in September 2009. Prosecutors alleged that the three were plotting a trio of suicide bombings in Manhattan. Najibullah Zazi, a former Denver airport shuttle driver, and Zarein Ahmedzay have pleaded guilty and admitted planning to detonate homemade bombs on the subway during rush hour.

Medunjanin plans to proceed to trial, “so that the case can be resolved by a jury and not a government press release or indictment,’’ his lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, said yesterday.

After 9/11, Shukrijumah, 34, was seen as one of Al Qaeda’s most likely organizers of an attack inside the United States or Europe, captured terrorist Abu Zubaydah told US authorities. Shukrijumah studied at a community college in Florida, but when the FBI showed up to arrest him as a material witness to a terrorism case in 2003, he already had left the country.

Shukrijumah had spent much of his youth in Brooklyn and in Florida. He received flight training at around the same time as the 9/11 hijackers and became the focus of intense concern among federal authorities, in part because he spent so much time in the United States and was familiar with the language and culture.

In 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft called Shukrijumah a “clear and present danger’’ to the United States. The United States is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

The new indictment charging a conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction alleges that Shukrijumah and Ahmad recruited Zazi, Ahmedzay, and Medunjanin in 2008 to receive training from Al Qaeda in the Waziristan region of Pakistan.

Once the three former high school classmates from Queens returned to the United States in early 2009, the indictment adds, Ahmad traded coded e-mail messages with both Zazi and Naseer, who was part of a cell based in Manchester, England.

Prosecutors said that in one message, Naseer told Ahmad he was planning a large “wedding,’’ code for attack. Likewise, prosecutors said, Zazi e-mailed Ahmad that “the marriage is ready’’ shortly before he drove from Colorado to New York City carrying bomb-making components in September 2009.

In a search of the British suspects’ homes, investigators found large amounts of flour and oil, and surveillance photos and maps of Manchester on the walls, prosecutors said.

Zazi, who was under FBI surveillance, was arrested after abandoning the plan and fleeing back to Colorado. Naseer is in custody in the United Kingdom on terrorism charges; Rehman was deported to Pakistan.

The indictment contained few details on the connection between the alleged plots in New York and Manchester. The news release announcing the indictment simply says that “the charges reveal’’ that the planned subway attack was “directly related to a scheme by Al Qaeda plotters in Pakistan to use Western operatives to attack a target in the United States.’’

The new indictment was unsealed on the fifth anniversary of a suicide attack on London’s transit system that killed 52 commuters.

Material from The New York Times was used in this report.

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