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ISIS terror plot thwarted in NYC last year, Feds say

Police stationed in Times Square. Security in Times

Police stationed in Times Square. Security in Times Square in NYC, on Oct. 3, 2017. Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin

Three men, including a U.S. citizen living in Pakistan, planned terror attacks in New York City in the name of ISIS that involved setting off bombs in Times Square and the subway system, according to charges unsealed Friday in Manhattan federal court.

The suspects, identified in criminal complaints as Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, 19, Talha Haroon, 19, and Russell Salic, 37, were nabbed in a federal undercover operation. All three men were already in some form of government custody either in the U.S. or abroad, officials disclosed.

El Bahnasawy, a Canadian citizen, pleaded guilty in October 2016 to terrorism charges stemming from the investigation and is awaiting sentencing. Haroon is a U.S. citizen who had been living in Pakistan who was arrested there in September 2016. Salic, a Philippine citizen, was arrested there in April of this year, federal officials said.

Haroon and Salic are undergoing extradition proceedings, acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement.

According to criminal complaints and court papers unsealed Friday, the trio purchased bomb-making materials, moved money, secured a safe house outside New York to make explosives and traveled outside the U.S. to further the plot.

Federal investigators said the planned attacks included setting off bombs in Times Square and the subway system, as well as shooting civilians at concerts.

Key to uncovering the plot was an undercover FBI agent who convinced the suspects that he was an ISIS supporter ready to help in the attacks, officials said. Also involved in the case were investigators with the NYPD, FBI and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

At one point in May 2016, court papers stated, El Bahnasawy sent the undercover agent a picture of Times Square with the message “we seriously need a car bomb at times square.” He also said that same day that he wanted to “shoot up concerts cuz they kill a lot of people . . . we just walk in with guns in our hands. That’s how the Paris guys did it.”

Haroon allegedly expressed plans for carnage in the subway system and, according to court papers, said they should shoot as many passengers as possible including “women or kids,” and then set off explosive vests when they ran out of bullets.

The attacks were to be carried out during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in summer 2016, authorities said.

All three suspects are facing a variety of charges carrying life terms in prison, including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to bomb places of public use and public transportation, and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries.

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