Alleged Al-qaeda Operative Extradited To United States For Role In International Terrorism Plot Targeting New York City, United Kingdom, And Scandinavia
Abid Naseer, a Manchester-based United Kingdom resident, was extradited from the United Kingdom to Brooklyn, New York, today to face charges for his alleged role in an international al-Qaeda plot to attack targets in the United States and Europe. Naseer will make his initial appearance on Monday, January 7, at 2:00 p.m., before The Hon. Raymond J. Dearie of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Naseer is the eighth defendant to face charges in Brooklyn federal court related to the al-Qaeda plot involving Adis Medunjanin, Najibullah Zazi, and Zarein Ahmedzay.
The extradition was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Lisa O. Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division; George Venizelos, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office; and Raymond W. Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department.
According to the indictment, other court filings, evidence presented to the court in support of Naseer’s extradition, and evidence from the trials of Adis Medunjanin and Mohammed Wali Zazi in the Eastern District of New York, in approximately September 2008, al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan recruited Medunjanin, Najibullah Zazi, and Zarein Ahmedzay, three friends from New York City, to conduct a suicide bombing attack in New York City.1 The al- Qaeda leaders, including Adnan El-Shukrijumah and Saleh al-Somali, communicated with Zazi about the plot through an al-Qaeda facilitator named “Ahmad” in Peshawar, Pakistan. In early September 2009, after Medunjanin, Zazi, and Ahmedzay had selected the New York City subway system as their target, Zazi emailed with “Ahmad” in Pakistan about the proper ingredients for the main charge explosive, which included flour and oil. Zazi pleaded guilty to his role in the plot on February 22, 2010; Ahmedzay pleaded guilty on April 23, 2010; and Medunjanin was convicted after trial on May 1, 2012.
The investigation by authorities in the United States and United Kingdom revealed that “Ahmad” was also communicating with Naseer. Naseer, like Zazi, was in Peshawar, Pakistan in November 2008, according to the court filings. After returning to the United Kingdom, Naseer sent messages back and forth to the same email account that “Ahmad” was using to communicate with the American-based al-Qaeda cell on behalf of Saleh al-Somali, the indictment and court filings allege. In the messages, Naseer used coded language to refer to different types of explosives. At the culmination of the plot, in early April 2009, Naseer, again using coded language, told “Ahmad” that he was planning a large “wedding” for numerous guests between April 15 and 20, 2009, and that “Ahmad” should be ready. Notably, evidence at Medunjanin’s trial established that “Ahmad” and Zazi had agreed on a similar code to mean the New York City attack was ready to be executed, and that Zazi emailed Ahmad that “the marriage is ready” just before he drove to New York in early September 2009.
On April 8, 2009, Naseer and several associates were arrested in the United Kingdom. In connection with these arrests, U.K. authorities conducted searches of the plotters’ homes, where they found large quantities of flour and oil, as well as surveillance photographs of public areas in Manchester and maps of Manchester’s city center posted on the wall, with one of the locations from the surveillance photographs highlighted.
On January 30, 2012, three defendants were also convicted in a Norwegian court of plotting a similar terrorist attack in Denmark as part of the same overall multinational al- Qaeda conspiracy. During that trial, the United States made available to the Norwegian prosecutors three witnesses who also pleaded guilty to terrorism offenses in the Eastern District of New York: Najibullah Zazi, Zarein Ahmedzay, and Bryant Neal Vinas.
Naseer is charged with providing and conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaeda and conspiracy to use a destructive device in relation to the U.K. branch of the plot. He faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted of all counts.
“The defendant is one of a long line of terrorist suspects extradited to these shores and this courthouse to face justice for their efforts to wreak havoc here and overseas. As alleged, this defendant was instrumental in one tentacle of an international plot that reached to New York, Norway, and the United Kingdom,” said United States Attorney Lynch. “Those responsible for terrorist plots or attacks will be investigated, charged, and prosecuted, whether they are arrested here in the United States, or abroad.” Ms. Lynch also expressed her gratitude to the law enforcement personnel, both domestic and foreign, who took part in the investigation.
“Today’s extradition underscores the importance of international cooperation in disrupting transnational terrorism threats. I thank our counterparts in the United Kingdom for their assistance in this investigation as well as the many U.S. agents, analysts, and prosecutors who helped bring about these charges,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security Monaco.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Venizelos said, “The extradition of Naseer demonstrates not only the long arm of American justice. It also shows the determination and commitment of governments around the world to work in common cause to thwart alleged international terrorist conspiracies. Plotting in one country to do harm in another does not provide cover for terrorists. It makes them targets in two countries.”
Police Commissioner Kelly said, “Here’s to our special relationship. New York and London, and now Manchester, share a history of terrorism and outstanding law enforcement cooperation in bringing those allegedly responsible to justice, as this case illustrates. Al-Qaeda has attacked on both sides of the Atlantic, and it has been brought to justice on both shores too.”
The government’s case is being prosecuted by David Bitkower, James P. Loonam, Berit W. Berger, and Zainab Ahmad of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. Assistance was also provided by Lystra Blake, Associate Director of the Office of International Affairs.