Man guilty of NY subway bomb plot
A New York man has been convicted of plotting an aborted suicide mission against New York City subways in 2009 - a case that featured the first-time testimony from admitted homegrown terrorists about al Qaida's fixation with completing another attack on American soil.
A jury found Adis Medunjanin guilty of all counts for his role in a terror plot that federal authorities said was one of the closest calls since September 11 2001.
"This is Terrorism 101," Assistant US Attorney Berit Berger said in closing arguments in federal court in Brooklyn. "The goal of this conspiracy was to kill as many people as possible."
Medunjanin could be ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison when he is sentenced September 7.
The defence admitted that Bosnian-born Medunjanin wanted to fight for the Taliban, but they insisted he never agreed to spread death and destruction in the city where his family put down roots.
Medunjanin, 27, went overseas to fulfil a "romantic version of jihad. ... His plan and intent was to join the Taliban and stand up for what he believes in," defence attorney Robert Gottlieb said in his closing argument. "That was his purpose."
The government's case was built on the testimony of four men: two other radicalised Muslim men from Queens who pleaded guilty in the subway plot, a British would-be shoe bomber and a man originally from Long Island who gave al Qaida pointers on how best to attack a Walmart store.
Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, both former high school classmates of Medunjanin, told jurors that the scheme unfolded after the trio travelled to Pakistan in 2008 in revenge for the US invasion of Afghanistan.
While receiving terror training at outposts in the South Waziristan region of Pakistan, al Qaida operatives encouraged the American recruits to return home for a suicide-bombing mission intended to spread panic and cripple the economy. Among the targets considered were New York Stock Exchange, Times Square and Grand Central Terminal, the men testified.
In a later meeting in New York, the plotters decided to strap on bombs and blow themselves up at rush hour on Manhattan subway lines because the transit system is "the heart of everything in New York City," Zazi said.