Accused N.Y. Subway Bomb Plotter Chose Murder, U.S. Says
By Thom Weidlich - Apr 26, 2012 10:39 AM ET
A New York man accused of helping plan a failed suicide attack on the city’s subway system around the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks chose to murder Americans, a prosecutor told a jury.
“This case is about the choices that that man made: choices to murder Americans overseas, choices to come back and murder Americans here in New York on behalf of al-Qaeda,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Berit Berger said in closing arguments at the trial of Adis Medunjanin in federal court in Brooklyn, New York.
Medunjanin, 28, and two other New York men were recruited by al-Qaeda for a planned bombing of subway lines in Manhattan in 2009, according to an indictment. The plot was stopped within days of its happening, prosecutors said. The two other men, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, pleaded guilty in 2010 and testified at the trial for the government.
A naturalized U.S. citizen born in Bosnia, Medunjanin faces as long as life in prison if convicted. U.S. District Judge John Gleeson is presiding over the trial, which began April 16.
Medunjanin, Ahmedzay, 27, and Zazi, 26, lived in the New York borough of Queens and went to Flushing High School. In August 2008, they left New York to join the Taliban in Pakistan, where they were recruited by al-Qaeda, which gave them military training and encouraged them to conduct suicide attacks, Ahmedzay and Zazi testified.
The three went to a terrorist camp in Waziristan, Pakistan, and were taught to use rocket launchers, machine guns, grenades and pistols, according to Zazi’s testimony. He was also trained in bomb making, he said.
After al-Qaeda asked them to conduct a suicide mission, they returned to the U.S. Al-Qaeda didn’t specify what to target, Zazi said. Other possible targets included Wal-Mart, the New York Stock Exchange and movie theaters, he said.
Zazi testified that when the plotters discussed bombing the subways he mentioned the No. 3 train, which runs on Manhattan’s West Side, or the No. 4 train on the East Side, because they are busy lines.
The plan was for an attack during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan during the morning or afternoon rush hour because that would create the most casualties and property damage, Ahmedzay testified.
Zazi said they agreed to the plot because they were upset about the U.S.’s presence in Afghanistan.
Saajid Muhammad Badat, convicted in the U.K. in 2005 of plotting to explode an airplane, testified via a recorded deposition about his experiences with al-Qaeda, as did Bryant Neal Vinas, a man from Long Island, New York, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to charges related to his association with the terrorist group.
Badat is the first terrorist convicted in the U.K. to present evidence in a U.S. trial, the Crown Prosecution Service said in an April 16 statement.
Medunjanin is charged with 10 counts, including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, al-Qaeda.
He was taken into custody after a Jan. 7, 2010, incident in which he swerved his silver Nissan Altima into another vehicle at more than 90 miles an hour, followed by government agents, on an expressway in Queens, prosecutors said.
‘We Love Death’
Shortly before he crashed his car, Medunjanin dialed 911 and screamed in Arabic “We love death more than you love your life,” according to the government. The crash occurred about an hour after law enforcement officers left his home in the Flushing following the execution of a warrant to search for his passports.
Prosecutors said in a court document that Medunjanin admitted after the collision that he was trying to kill himself and others.
Ahmedzay immigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan. Zazi was born in Pakistan. He testified that he had falsely written on immigration forms and told authorities that he was from Afghanistan. The three men have been in custody since their arrests.
The case is U.S. v. Medunjanin, 1:10-cr-00019, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
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