Prosecutors: Subway plot had companion terror plan in UK
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Four previously uncharged al-Qaida operatives were named Wednesday as co-conspirators in last year's New York City subway bombing plot in a new indictment unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn, as the Justice Department alleged that a companion plot had targeted the United Kingdom.
Adnan el Shukrijumah, an Americanized Saudi Arabian who allegedly heads "external operations" for the terror group, and an operative known as "Ahmad," "Sohaib" or "Zahid," were accused of putting together the twin plots, both designed to use "Western operatives," similar code words and identical bombs.
Both men are at large. Shukrijumah, 34, has a $5-million price on his head. The new indictment includes terrorism charges against the principals in the United Kingdom plot - Abid Naseer and Tariq ur Rehman - and adds a charge against Adis Medunjanin of Queens, the only defendant in the case who has not pleaded guilty.
A sixth person whose name is blacked out also was charged.
"These charges underscore the global nature of the terrorist threat we face," said David Kris, the Justice Department's assistant attorney general for national security.
Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, the two Flushing High School classmates charged with Medunjanin last year, pleaded guilty in February and April, respectively. They have been cooperating and providing information to authorities, and said at the time of their pleas that the subway plot was hatched by al-Qaida leaders they met in Pakistan.
According to prosecutors, the subway bombers met in Pakistan with Shukrijumah and two other al-Qaida leaders, both now dead, who set the plot in motion. Once they returned to the U.S., Zazi e-mailed reports through the operative named "Ahmad" based in Peshawar - and he also was communicating with alleged British plotter Naseer, who had been in Peshawar with Zazi in November 2008.
In April 2009, officials said, Naseer e-mailed that he was planning a large "wedding" between April 15 and 20, and told Ahmad to be ready. In September, just before the planned U.S. attack, Zazi e-mailed Ahmad that "the marriage is ready."
The British attack - apparently aimed at targets in Manchester - was interrupted when Naseer, Rehman and others were arrested in a terrorism sweep on April 8, 2009. Rehman was deported to Pakistan and is at large. Nasser, who had been released, has now been arrested to face extradition on the U.S. charges.
The new indictment adds a claim that Medunjanin, who crashed his car on the day of his arrest in January months after the plot had been exposed, was engaged in "a last attempt to carry out a suicide attack on American soil."
Medunjanin's lawyer Robert Gottlieb said that his client still insists he was not guilty and plans to go to trial.
In a separate development, a federal judge in Brooklyn Wednesday granted a Newsday request to unseal the plea agreements of Zazi and Ahmedzay, which prosecutors had sought to keep secret.
The agreements reveal that both men will get a government recommendation for a lighter sentence and will be eligible for the federal witness protection program if they are ever released. Zazi, who could lose his green card and be deported as a result of his conviction, will be eligible for a special "S-visa" that allows non-citizen snitches to stay in the U.S.