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DOJ announces charges against al Qaeda members for NYC subway bomb plot

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Wednesday announced charges [press release] against five members of al Qaeda [JURIST news archive] allegedly involved in the New York City subway bomb plot in September 2009. The attempted bombing is thought to be part of a larger plot that included a failed terrorist attack in the UK. The indictment, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website], broadened the case of Colorado resident Najibullah Zazi, who pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in February to conspiring to set off explosions in New York City's metro system under the direction of al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan. The indictment included charges against Abid Naseer and Tariq ur Rehman, who were previously arrested by authorities in the UK in relation to suspected terrorist activity in the country that is "directly related" to the attempted September attack in New York. A man referred to as "Ahmad" in the indictment was charged with acting as an "al-Qaeda facilitator" for Naseer and Rehman. The indictment also included Adnan El Shukrijumah, a leader of al-Qaeda's external operations program, who is charged with organizing the New York plot and recruiting Zazi. US officials have been searching for Shukrijumah, a Saudi Arabia national, for several years and plan to put him on the FBI's most wanted list this week. The indictment also included additional charges against Adis Medunjanin, who was indicted in February [JURIST report] for an attempted terrorist attack on Whitestone Expressway in Queens, NY. The men were indicted on 10 counts including conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda and receiving military training from al Qaeda. Each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

The DOJ revealed the broader underlying plot of Zazi's failed attack last Septemeber. Zazi is a native of Afghanistan who was arrested [BBC report] by FBI agents in Colorado last fall. He was originally charged with making false statements to the FBI. In September, Zazi was indicted [indictment, PDF; JURIST report] and originally pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to the charge of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction. In February, he changed his plea to guilty to three criminal charges of conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction in the US and to commit murder in a foreign country, as well as providing material support for al Qaeda. The guilty plea was praised [JURIST report] by US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website], who has been a strong proponent of using civilian courts to try terrorist suspects.

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