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Queens Man Pleads Guilty to Planning Terror Plot Against New York City Subways

Updated: July 9, 2010

Posted: January 12, 2010

A Queens man has pleaded guilty to planning to detonate homemade explosives on New York City subway lines.


On April 23, 2010, Zarein Ahmedzay, 25, pleaded guilty in a New York federal court to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against persons or property in the U.S., conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and providing material support to Al Qaeda for his role in an Al Qaeda plot to conduct coordinated suicide bombings on New York's subway system.  Ahmedzay, an American citizen from Afghanistan, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.


"Ahmedzay's plea makes clear that he betrayed his adopted country and its people by providing support to Al Qaeda and planning to bring deadly violence to New York," FBI Director Robert S. Mueller said following Ahmedzay's guilty plea.


While entering his plea, Ahmedzay stated that "the real enemies of this country are the ones destroying this country from within" and condemned "a special group of Zionist Jews" who want to "establish a permanent shadow government in the United States of America."  Ahmedzay's outburst in court marks the latest terror trial during which defendants or their supporters have blamed court proceedings on Israel and the Jews.


The charges against Ahmedzay and co-conspirator Adis Medunjanin, 25, were laid out in a five-count superseding indictment unsealed on February 25, 2010.  That same day, Ahmedzay and Medunjanin, who also faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, pleaded not guilty to all charges.


In entering his guilty plea, Ahmedzay admitted that he and Medunjanin, a Bosnian-born naturalized American citizen, left New York in August 2008 and flew through Qatar to Peshawar, Pakistan.  Prosecutors had previously alleged that Medunjanin traveled to Pakistan with the "intent of killing U.S. service members in Afghanistan."


Ahmedzay and Medunjanin travelled to Pakistan with Najibullah Zazi, who has since pleaded guilty to plotting an attack against the New York City subway system for Al Qaeda and admitted in federal court that he traveled to Pakistan with the intention of crossing the border into Afghanistan.  While in Pakistan, Ahmedzay, Medunjanin and Zazi, a U.S. permanent resident from Afghanistan, were recruited and directed by Adnan El Shukrijumah, a U.S. permanent resident from Saudi Arabia designated as one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists, to conduct a terrorist attack in the U.S.  El Shukrijumah has since been indicted for organizing their terror attack in New York.  The men also allegedly received "military-style" training from Al Qaeda, which, according to Attorney General Eric Holder, helped prepare them for "one of the most serious terrorist threats to our country since September 11, 2001."


While the three Americans had originally planned to fight against U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, the Al Qaeda leaders explained that they would be more useful if they conducted suicide operations targeting well-known structures in New York to maximize the number of casualties, according to the Department of Justice.  Ahmedzay admitted to the court that he "personally believed that conducting an operation in the United States would be the best way to end the wars."


After completing training in Pakistan in January 2009, Zazi moved to Colorado and stockpiled hydrogen peroxide and acetone products – which are components of the explosive Triacetone Triperoxide – from beauty supply stores. The following September, Zazi took the bomb-making components to New York, where he and Ahmedzay planned to complete assembly of the bombs.  Zazi, Ahmedzay and Medunjanin planned to launch their coordinated attacks on the Manhattan subway lines on September 14th, 15th or 16th, but discarded the explosives and bomb-making components when Zazi realized that law enforcement was investigating his activities, according to the Department of Justice.


Both Ahmedzay and Medunjanin reportedly attended high school with Zazi.  Ahmedzay, who worked as a taxi driver in New York City, and Medunjanin, who graduated from Queens College in June 2009 and worked as a building superintendent, were publicly linked to Zazi when federal authorities searched their apartments in September 2009 as part of the investigation against Zazi.  Medunjanin was later charged in a superseding indictment unsealed in July 2010 for attempting to crash his car immediately before his arrest in New York as a last attempt to conduct a suicide attack on American soil.   


Medunjanin was originally charged on January 8, 2010, with conspiring to commit murder in a foreign country and receiving military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization.  Ahmedzay, whose indictment was filed the same day as Medunjanin's, was charged with making false statements to the FBI in an international and domestic terrorism investigation for allegedly lying to federal agents about the nature of his August 2008 trip to Pakistan.  At the time, both men pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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