Attacks planned in Manchester and New York

The Justice Department today announced charges against five members of an al Qaeda plot to attack targets in the United States and United Kingdom.

The plotters were allegedly targeting New York’s subway system and an attack on the United Kingdom.

Adnan El Shukrijumah, also known as “Hamad;” Adis Medunjanin, also known as “Mohammad;” Abid Naseer; Tariq Ur Rehman; and a fifth defendant known as “Ahmad,” “Sohaib,” or “Zahid.” were all charged with several terrorism violations. Each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

The plot was organised by leaders of al Qaeda’s “external operations” dedicated to terrorist attacks in the United States and other Western countries, according to the filing.

The suspects allegedly planned suicide bombings in New York City using improvised explosive devices made from supplies of hydrogen peroxide, acetone, flour, and oil.

The indictment also charged El Shukrijumah, a 34-year-old Saudi Arabian, who served as one of the leaders of al Qaeda’s external operations. Shukrijumah, who remains at large, has been wanted by the FBI for several years and is the subject of a $5m reward for information leading to his arrest.

The investigation also revealed that “Ahmad” was communicating with a UK based co-conspirator called Naseer. Naseer, who is believed to be Manchester based, like Zazi, was in Peshawar, Pakistan in November 2008.

Naseer sent coded emails to Ahmad referring to different types of explosives. At the culmination of the plot, in early April 2009, Naseer told Ahmad that he was planning a large “wedding” for numerous guests and that Ahmad should be ready.

On April 8, 2009, UK authorities conducted searches of the plotters’ homes, where they found large quantities of flour and oil, as well as surveillance photographs of public areas in Manchester and maps of Manchester’s city center. Naseer is currently in custody in the United Kingdom. The United States intends to seek his extradition to face trial. Rehman is not in custody.

After Zazi was caught by the police, Medunjanin attempted to crash his car into another car on the Whitestone Expressway in Queens, New York as a last attempt to carry out a suicide attack on American soil, according to the FBI. Just before crashing his car, Medunjanin called 911 to identify himself and announce his intentions. Medunjanin remains in federal custody in the United States. No trial date has been set.

David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said: “These charges underscore the global nature of the terrorist threat we face. They further reflect the effectiveness of mutual investigations and cooperation with our global partners in disrupting terrorism threats. I thank our counterparts in the United Kingdom for their assistance in this investigation.”

FBI Executive Assistant Director Sean Joyce, National Security Branch said: “The threat posed by terrorists around the world is a threat to security and a threat to the rule of law. The transnational nature of this conspiracy, and its connection to plots targeted outside the US underscores the importance of international coordination and collaboration to do everything we can to ensure public safety.”