U.S. and Canadian authorities announced new terrorism charges today related to the 2009 plot to bomb New York City's subway system, an attack which investigators said was averted just days before it had been planned to take place, around the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The US Attorney's Office in Brooklyn and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced the charges against Canadian citizen Ferid Ahmed Imam, who allegedly helped train Najibullah Zazi, the key operative in the plot, and his associates.
Charges unrelated to the NYC plot were also announced against another Canadian citizen, Maiwand Yar, who investigators said conspired to participate in a terrorist group.
The RCMP alleged that both men traveled to Pakistan in March 2007 before they were to graduate from the University of Manitoba. There, investigators said Imam acted as an instructor to would-be terrorists, including Zazi. Zazi was arrested in Denver in September 2009 and pleaded guilty last year to terrorism charges, admitting that he planned to attack the New York subway system with a series of bombs that he was planning to make.
When he was arrested, after more than a year of surveillance by the FBI, Zazi was found to have chemicals and hydrogen peroxide-based beauty products to make the peroxide bombs. Zazi said he was recruited by al Qaeda in Pakistan and had discussions with al Qaeda about "target locations" in the subways. Two men authorities said worked with Zazi, Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay, were arrested in January in 2010.
The head of the New York FBI field office, Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice Fedarcyk said in a statement, "The three men already charged with conspiring to set off bombs in New York were also charged with receiving overseas training to accomplish that nefarious goal. Among other alleged acts of terrorism, Ferid Imam helped them get that training."
The charges against Imam and Yar were unsealed on Tuesday as part of the investigation, which Canadian authorities dubbed "Operation Darken." The two are part of a trio of Canadian men who have been dubbed the "Lost Boys of Winnipeg" according to Canadian press reports, and both men are currently fugitives who officials believe to be in Pakistan. The whereabouts of the third man, Muhannad al-Farekh are unknown.
"These warrants are the result of a lengthy and thorough national security criminal investigation involving key partners throughout Canada and the U.S.," Assistant RCMP Commissioner Bill Robinson said.
Zazi and his associates were allegedly in contact with senior members of Al Qaeda when they traveled to Pakistan in 2008. Among the senior members they met included Adnan Shukrijumah, a top operational planner in the terror group who has long been sought by the FBI for his connections to other Al Qaeda plots and possible connections to Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. The charges unsealed today charge Imam with aiding and abetting Zazi and his associates, allowing them to receive military type training, use of a destructive device and providing support to Al Qaeda.
Last July Shukrijumah, who is also a fugitive, was charged in an indictment for recruiting and directing Zazi, Ahmedzay, and Medunjanin to return to the United States to undertake the attacks. The FBI and State Department have issued a $5 million reward for information resulting in Shukrijumah's capture.
Shortly after Zazi was arrested, it was disclosed at a court hearing that Zazi had traveled on several occasions to Canada, but it is not known if he had previously met with Imam.
Last year Ahmedzay pleaded guilty to three terrorism charges for his role in targeting the New York City subway in the planned attacks, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass of destruction, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing material support to Al Qaeda. Medunjanin is awaiting trial on terrorism charges scheduled top begin in January 2012.