A New York City resident and member of al-Qaida was sentenced to life in prison Friday in connection with a plot to bomb the city's subway system.
Adis Medunjanin, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Bosnia, was convicted in May of plotting coordinated suicide bombings in New York subways in September 2009. The plot, which ranks among the most significant terrorist attacks to be plotted against the U.S. homeland since 9/11, was directed by al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan.
The plot's ringleader, Najibullah Zazi of Aurora, Colo., pleaded guilty in February 2010 to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and to providing material support to al-Qaida. In exchange for a reduced prison sentence, Zazi later testified against Medunjanin, his former high school classmate in Queens.
Another classmate, Zarein Ahmedzay, pleaded guilty in April 2010 and testified against Mendunjanin.
The three men traveled to Pakistan in August 2008 hoping to join forces with the Taliban and fight American and allied troops in Afghanistan. When that didn't work, the men met with an al-Qaida facilitator in Peshawar, Pakistan who helped transport them to Waziristan region of Pakistan to undergo military-style training at an al-Qaida terrorist camp. They met with top-ranking al-Qaida leaders there who told them they would be more useful if they returned to New York to conduct high-casualty suicide operations against well-known targets. They discussed possible targets, including the subway system, Grand Central Station, the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square and movie theaters.
They returned to the U.S. planning to attack the Grand Central and Times Square trains during rush hour in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in late August and September 2009. But federal investigators foiled the plot.
A few months later, Medunjanin crashed his car into another on the Whitestone Expressway. He called 911 just before crashing, and after identifying himself declared, "We love death more than you love your life."
"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," Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a Department of Justice press release. "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."