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NY subway bomb plotter sentenced to life

Adis Medunjanin

One of three men involved in what U.S. prosecutors called one of the most serious terror threats to the U.S. since 9/11 was sentenced on Nov. 16 to life in prison.

Adis Medunjanin, 34, who planned to conduct suicide bombings at high-profile locations in New York City in 2009 with Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, was sentenced on multiple terrorism charges in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn, NY.

Reportedly, Medunjanin wasn’t the mastermind of the plots, but was the ideological catalyst for them, spurring the others on to violent jihad.

To date, seven defendants, including Medunjanin, Zazi, and Ahmedzay, have been convicted in connection with the Al Qaeda New York City bombing plot and related charges, said the FBI. Zazi and Ahmedsay still face sentencing.

According to trial evidence, Medunjanin, along with Zazi and Ahmedzay were directed by senior al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan to conduct terror operations in the U.S.  The men came within days of executing a plot to conduct coordinated suicide bombings in the New York City subway system in September 2009, said the FBI. When the plot was foiled, Medunjanin tried to crash his car on the Whitestone Expressway in an effort to kill himself and others.

The government’s evidence at trial in this and related cases established that, in 2008, Medunjanin, Zazi and Ahmedzay, traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they received terror training, including the use of AK-47, PK machine gun, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, at the hands of high ranking Al Qaeda facilitators.  

Trial evidence also showed that during their training, al Qaeda leaders, including Adnan El Shukrijumah, encouraged Medunjanin and his fellow plotters to return to the U.S. to conduct a “martyrdom” operation. The Al Qaeda leaders, said the FBI, emphasized the need to hit well-known targets and maximize the number of casualties. Medunjanin, Zazi, and Ahmedzay agreed and discussed the timing of the attacks and possible target locations in Manhattan, including the subway system, Grand Central Terminal, the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square, and movie theaters.

After returning to the U.S., prosecutors said Medunjanin, Zazi, and Ahmedzay met and agreed to carry out suicide bombings during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which fell in late August and September 2009. Zazi agreed to prepare the explosives, and all three agreed to conduct coordinated suicide bombings. In July and August 2009, Zazi purchased large quantities of the component chemicals necessary to produce the explosive TATP (triacetone triperoxide) and twice checked into a hotel room near Denver, Colorado, to mix the chemicals. Federal investigators later found bomb-making residue in the hotel room.

On September 8, 2009, said the FBI, Zazi drove from Denver to New York carrying operational detonator explosives and other materials necessary to build the suicide bombs.

However, shortly after arriving in New York, he learned law enforcement was closing in. In an unsuccessful effort to avoid detection, the men discarded the explosives and other bomb-making materials, and Zazi traveled back to Denver, where he was arrested on September 19, 2009.

On January 7, 2010, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at Medunjanin’s residence. Shortly after that, said federal prosecutors, Medunjanin left his apartment and tried to turn his car into a weapon by deliberately crashing it into another car at high speed on the Whitestone Expressway. Moments before impact, Medunjanin called 911, identified himself, and left his message of martyrdom, shouting the Al Qaeda slogan, “We love death more than you love your life.”

Medunjanin was convicted in May, 2012 of various terror charges, including conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction; conspiring to commit murder of U.S. military personnel abroad; providing and conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda; receiving military training from al Qaeda; conspiring and attempting to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries; using explosives in relation to these offenses.

 “Adis Medunjanin sought martyrdom for himself and death for innocent New Yorkers as part of al Qaeda’s plan to spread terror within our shores. Instead, he will now spend the rest of his life where he belongs, behind bars,” stated United States attorney Loretta Lynch. “Justice demanded a sentence of life for this al Qaeda operative, who was dedicated to mass murder and destruction in the New York City subways. Scores of innocent New Yorkers would have been killed or maimed had Medunjanin succeeded in his plot. The combined efforts of dedicated law enforcement stood as a bulwark against al Qaeda’s reach.”


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