Al Qaeda Agent Convicted in Shopping Mall Plot Gets 40 Years

PHOTO: In this courtroom drawing, Abid Naseer listens to the guilty verdict against him in federal court on March 4, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Victor Juhasz/AP Photo
In this courtroom drawing, Abid Naseer listens to the guilty verdict against him in federal court on March 4, 2015, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

An al Qaeda operative convicted of planning to bomb a U.K. shopping mall and accused of working with men who conspired to attack the New York City subway was sentenced to 40 years in prison today in a Brooklyn court, federal officials said.

Abid Naseer, a Pakistani national, was found guilty on three terror-related charges, including conspiracy to use a destructive device, in March. He is the eighth person to face federal charges in the U.S. for what U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin called an “al Qaeda conspiracy that targeted Western countries.”

Naseer was originally arrested by British authorities in 2009, but was released after prosecutors there said that admissible evidence against him was “very limited” and that they lacked “evidence of training, research or the purchasing of explosives… [and they] had no evidence of an agreement between Abid Naseer and others which would have supported a charge of conspiracy in this country.”

In announcing the sentencing today, U.S. federal officials took pains to connect Naseer to Najibullah Zazi, the ringleader of the failed 2009 plot to bomb the New York City subway system, saying that the U.S. and U.K. plotters communicated with the same handlers in Pakistan and followed similar attack timelines – evidence of the ocean-spanning “conspiracy” that prompted American officials to extradite Naseer in 2013 and prosecute him stateside under American legal code that allows foreigners to be tried for foreign terror-related acts. A New York jury voiced their agreement with U.S. prosecutors with their March guilty verdict. Zazi pleaded guilty in 2010.

During Naseer’s American trial, a slew of British special agents appeared to testify in disguises and were directly cross-examined by Naseer, who represented himself, according to the BBC. The trial reportedly was the first to use evidence gathered from the May 2011 U.S. Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound that killed the al Qaeda leader.

Federal officials today described a letter found in bin Laden’s home from a high-level al Qaeda figure in Pakistan who the officials had linked to both the subway and mall plots. The al Qaeda figure purportedly discussed Naseer and his co-conspirators’ arrests in the U.K.