A New York man said Friday that a plan to attackthe city subway system was ordered by al-Qaida leaders two yearsago while he was in Pakistan with a friend, a former airportshuttle driver who has since admitted to the plot.
Zarein Ahmedzay, 25, pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklynto charges including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destructionin the foiled New York City subway bomb plot from fall 2009.
He said he, admitted plotter Najibullah Zazi and a third,unidentified man met with the leaders in Pakistan in 2008, wherethey offered to join the Taliban and fight U.S. forces inAfghanistan.
"They told us we would be more useful if we returned to NewYork City ... to conduct operations," he said. Asked by the judgewhat kind of operations, he responded, "Suicide-bombingoperations."
He added: "I personally believed that conducting an operationin the United States would be the best way to end the war," hesaid.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Knox identified the leaders assenior al-Qaida operatives Saleh al-Somali and Rashid Rauf, whowere both killed in Pakistan. The U.S. Justice Department on Fridaydescribed al-Somali as the head of international operations foral-Qaida.
Al-Somali was killed in a drone strike in December. Rauf, aBritish militant linked to a jetliner bomb plot, was also killed ina predator strike in November 2008.
Knox said Ahmedzay met with a third senior al-Qaida operative ina training camp in northern Waziristan in Pakistan. He has not beenidentified.
Prosecutors say Ahmedzay joined Zazi and another friend fromtheir Queens high school on the trip to Pakistan to seek terrorismtraining.
Zazi, a Colorado airport van driver, admitted this year that hetested bomb-making materials in a Denver suburb before traveling bycar to New York with the intent of attacking the subway system toavenge U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.
Ahmedzay and the third suspect, Adis Medunjanin, had previouslypleaded not guilty to charges they sought to join Zazi in whatprosecutors described as three "coordinated suicide bombingattacks" on Manhattan subway lines. The bombings were planned forthe days after the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorattacks, authorities said.
Officials have said a fourth suspect is in custody in Pakistanbut have given no other details about him.
Ahmedzay - who had been licensed to drive a taxi in New York -said Friday that once back in New York the men considered attacking"well-known structures" to cause "maximum casualties, beforesettling on the subways. They called off the operation once theydiscovered they were being watched by the FBI, and disposed of theexplosive materials "at a location in Queens," he said.
He quoted heavily from the Quran during his plea and urgedAmericans to "stop supporting the war against Islam."
"I'm thankful for myself that I didn't harm anyone, but I feelsomeone else will do the same thing," he said.
Prosecutors say the attacks were modeled after the Londontransit system bombings in July 2005, when four suicide bomberskilled 52 people and themselves in an attack on three subway trainsand a bus.
The alleged New York plot was disrupted in early September whenpolice officials stopped Zazi's car as it entered New York.
Last month, an Afghanistan-born imam linked to the suspectspleaded guilty to lying to the FBI when asked about the men. He wassentenced to time served and ordered to leave the United States.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday that the plot "makesclear we face a continued threat from al-Qaeda and its affiliatesoverseas."
"With three guilty pleas already and the investigationcontinuing, this prosecution underscores the importance of usingevery tool we have available to both disrupt plots against ournation and hold suspected terrorists accountable," he said.
Defense attorney Michael Marinaccio declined to say whether hisclient was cooperating with the investigation. But he added that byagreeing to plead guilty, "There's a potential benefit to him."
Ahmedzay faces a possible life term at sentencing July 30.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun