US & Canada

Adis Medunjanin guilty over New York subway bomb plot

Courtroom sketch of Adis Medunjanin in New York 16 April 2012
Adis Medunjanin's lawyer admitted his client had wanted to fight for the Taliban

A Bosnian-born US citizen has been convicted over a New York suicide-bomb plot and could face a life sentence.

Adis Medunjanin and two former schoolmates planned to bomb the New York subway before the 9/11 terror attacks anniversary in 2009.

The men were trained by al-Qaeda in Pakistan before agreeing to participate in the plot, prosecutors said.

Defence lawyers argued that US agents unfairly coerced Medunjanin and intimidated his family.

His lawyers said Medunjanin went abroad to fulfil a "romantic version of jihad" and had wanted to fight for the Taliban, but not to cause death and destruction in the city where his family had settled.

But Assistant US Attorney Berit Berger called the plot "Terrorism 101" during his closing arguments, adding: "The goal of this conspiracy was to kill as many people as possible."

Medunjanin is to be sentenced on 7 September.

'Heart of everything'

The prosecution included the testimony of two key men: Najibullah Zazi, who admitted masterminding the plot, and Zarein Ahmedzay, who were both at high school with Medunjanin.

They testified that they had travelled to South Waziristan, Pakistan, with Medunjanin in 2008. There, they were trained by members of al-Qaeda and were encouraged to plan suicide-bombing missions when they returned home.

They told the court that they had considered targeting the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square and Grand Central Terminal.

Zazi testified that they targeted New York's subway trains at rush hour because it was "the heart of everything in New York City".

He said he had learned to distil ingredients for explosives from products such as nail varnish remover that are sold at pharmacies.

Zazi also told the jury that they dropped the plot, which was partly paid for with $50,000 (£31,000) in credit card charges, when he noticed a car following him in New York.

"I think law enforcement is on us," Zazi remembered telling Ahmedzay. He said he sent a text message to Medunjanin that said: "We are done."

'Links in a chain'

The court also heard from Saajid Badat, a British man who plotted to blow up a plane with a shoe bomb, and a man from Long Island, New York, who had advised al-Qaeda on how to target a Walmart shop.

Badat's testimony shed light on the internal workings of al-Qaeda.

In a video recording played out during the trial, Badat, 33, explained how he had risen up the ranks to teach a course in using explosives, although he said it was unlikely that any of his students went on to carry out bomb attacks.

Badat said he was summoned shortly after 9/11 by al-Qaeda's leaders, who "asked me to take an explosive device on board an airplane and then detonate it".

He also described a meeting with Osama Bin Laden.

He told the court that the al-Qaeda leader had said: "The American economy is like a chain. If you break one - one link of the chain - the whole economy will be brought down."

Badat added that the failed plot he had been involved with was intended to hit the US aviation industry and the wider economy.

He told the court about how he decided not to go ahead with the plot and wrote in an email to an intermediary that his fellow plotter Richard Reid, known as Van Damm, would be on his own.

In exchange for co-operating with prosecutors, Badat was released two years early from his 13-year jail term.

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