New York bomb plot directed by Al-Qaeda leaders: US

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Al-Qaeda's top leadership in Pakistan directed confessed agent Najibullah Zazi in his plot to bomb the New York subway, US officials said Wednesday.

In an indictment against five alleged militants, the US Justice Department revealed Zazi's plan was "directly related to a scheme by Al-Qaeda plotters in Pakistan to use Western operatives to attack a target in the United Kingdom."

The new charges "underscore the global nature of the terrorist threat we face," said prosecutor David Kris.

"They further reflect the effectiveness of mutual investigations and cooperation with our global partners in disrupting terrorism threats," said Kris, assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department.

Earlier this year, Zazi pleaded guilty to the three charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and providing material support to the Al-Qaeda Islamist network.

He told the federal court in Brooklyn in February that the plans to blow up New York targets just after the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks included "mortal operations" in the underground train system.

Zazi, a legal US resident based in Colorado, said he was ready to "sacrifice" himself "to draw the attention to what the United States is doing in Afghanistan."

The only Al-Qaeda leader named in the new indictment is Adnan El Shukrijumah. At the time, he was key in Al-Qaeda's "external operations" program and recruited Zazi for the New York operation through another of the defendants, a facilitator known alternatively as "Ahmad," "Sohaib" or "Zahid."

El Shukrijumah remains a fugitive and the Justice Department noted there was a five-million-dollar reward for information leading to his arrest.

The defendant known as "Ahmad" was also in contact with British resident Abid Naseer, based in the northern city of Manchester, officials said.

Naseer had met with Al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan at the same time as the accused New York plotter Zazi.

Officials said towards the end of the plotting, in communications with "Ahmad," Naseer was "planning a large 'wedding' for numerous guests between April 15 and 20, 2009," in coded language meant to detail a bombing plot.

Naseer was arrested along with a fourth defendant, Tariq Ur Rehman, by British authorities on April 8 last year.

The United States intends to seek Naseer's extradition from Britain, the indictment said, adding that Rehman is not still in custody.

The indictment, levying new charges, named as the fifth defendant Adis Medunjanin, one of the two other New York men arrested in January and described as associates of Zazi during the plotting to bomb the subway.

Medunjanin, who remains in federal custody in the United States but whose trial date has not been set, attempted to crash his car into another car on a New York highway "as a last attempt to carry out a suicide attack on American soil," officials said.

Each of the five defendants face life in prison if convicted.

© 2010 AFP

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