U.S. says ter­ror­ist plot for NYC at­tack foiled

Amer­i­can, Cana­dian, Filipino named by feds

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - NATION - By Tom Hays

NEW YORK — Three Is­lamic State group sym­pa­thiz­ers plot­ted to cause blood­shed at New York City con­cert venues, sub­way sta­tions and Times Square be­fore U.S. agents thwarted the in­ter­na­tional ter­ror plot, au­thor­i­ties said Fri­day.

One of the de­fen­dants, Ab­dul­rah­man El Bah­na­sawy, was ar­rested after trav­el­ing from Canada to New Jer­sey in May 2016 to stage the at­tacks, au­thor­i­ties said. The cap­ture of the Cana­dian cit­i­zen came after an in­ves­ti­ga­tion us­ing an un­der­cover FBI agent pos­ing as an Is­lamic ex­trem­ist that also led to the ar­rests last year of U.S. cit­i­zen Talha Haroon in Pak­istan and Rus­sell Salic in the Philip­pines, where he’s a cit­i­zen.

Ac­cord­ing to crim­i­nal com­plaints, El Bah­na­sawy, 19, sent the un­der­cover agent an im­age of Times Square with a smart­phone mes­sage say­ing, “We seriously need to car bomb times square. Look at th­ese crowds of peo­ple!”

In an­other, he ex­pressed a de­sire to “shoot up con­certs cuz they kill a lot peo­ple. … We just walk in with guns in our hands. That’s how Paris guys did it,” the pa­pers said in an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to the slaugh­ter by men armed with as­sault weapons at the Bat­a­clan con­cert hall in Paris dur­ing a per­for­mance of the rock group Eagles of Death Metal in 2015.

The com­plaints un­sealed Fri­day did not name the New York City venues.

The un­der­cover agent and El Bah­na­sawy also were in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the 19-year-old Haroon, who wanted to join El Bah­na­sawy in New York City for the at­tacks, au­thor­i­ties said. Haroon, who at one point met with an ex­plo­sives ex­pert in Pak­istan for in­for­ma­tion on build­ing bombs, told the un­der­cover agent the sub­way was a “per­fect” place to shoot pas­sen­gers, and that “when we run out of bul­lets we let the vests go off,” the court pa­pers said.

After Haroon talked about what was needed to build ex­plo­sives, El Bah­na­sawy bought 40 pounds of hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide, bat­ter­ies, Christ­mas lights, ther­mome­ters and other in­gre­di­ents com­monly used in home­made bombs, au­thor­i­ties said. He shipped the ma­te­rial to the un­der­cover agent in the United States, where he and Haroon planned to use a cabin in a ru­ral area within driv­ing dis­tance of the city to build bombs and take tar­get prac­tice, they said.

Salic, 37, was ac­cused of send­ing money to help fund the at­tacks, court pa­pers said. He told the un­der­cover agent his ul­ti­mate goal was to join the Is­lamic State group in Syria but that “it would be a great plea­sure if we can slaugh­ter” peo­ple in New York, the pa­pers said.

El Bah­na­sawy pleaded guilty in Oc­to­ber 2016, but the case was sealed while the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ued. His at­tor­ney, Sab­rina Shroff, de­clined to com­ment Fri­day.

Haroon and Salic were await­ing ex­tra­di­tion over­seas. It’s not clear if they have at­tor­neys.

All three men face pos­si­ble terms of life in prison on charges in­clud­ing con­spir­acy to use weapons of mass de­struc­tion and con­spir­acy to pro­vide ma­te­rial sup­port to ter­ror­ists.

The Royal Cana­dian Mounted Po­lice said it as­sisted the FBI in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“At no time was the safety or se­cu­rity of the pub­lic at risk,” it said.

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