Al-Qaeda operative sentenced to life imprisonment

Clerics such as Anwar al-Awalaki have been successful in recruiting new al-Qaeda terrorists to conduct their tactics in the United States.
Credits: USDOJ


On Friday, a 32-year-old resident of Queens, N.Y., who joined al-Qaeda, then plotted and attempted to commit suicide terrorist attacks, was sentenced to life in prison for multiple federal terrorism offenses, according to law enforcement officials.

According to the Justice Department, the defendant, Adis Medunjanin, and his accomplices were only days away from perpetrating coordinated suicide bombings within the New York City subway system in September 2009, as directed by senior al-Qaeda leaders operating in Pakistan.

When law enforcement thwarted Medunjanin’s attack plan, he attempted to perpetrate a terrorist attack by crashing his automobile on the Whitestone Expressway in an effort to kill himself and kill or injure innocent motorists who drove in his path.

According to the prosecution’s evidence during a federal trial, Medunjanin and his terrorist cell, that included Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, agreed to travel to Afghanistan to join the Taliban and kill United States military personnel abroad. They arrived in Peshawar, Pakistan, in late August 2008, but Medunjanin and Ahmedzay were turned back at the Afghanistan border.

Within days, Medunjanin, Zazi and Ahmedzay met with an al-Qaeda facilitator in Peshawar and agreed to travel to Waziristan for terrorist training. It was there that they finally met with al-Qaeda leaders Saleh al-Somali, the head of al-Qaeda external operations, and Rashid Rauf, another high-ranking al-Qaeda leader. The al-Qaeda leaders explained that the three recruits would be more useful to al-Qaeda and global jihad by going back to New York City and unleashing a series of deadly terrorist attacks.

In Waziristan, Medunjanin, Zazi and Ahmedzay received al-Qaeda training on how to use various types of high-powered weapons, including the AK-47, PK machine gun, and rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

During the training, al-Qaeda leaders, including Adnan El Shukrijumah, continued to encourage Medunjanin and his fellow jihadists to return to the United States to conduct a “martyrdom” operation, and emphasized the need to hit well-known targets and maximize the number of casualties, according to testimony at trial.

Medunjanin, Zazi and Ahmedzay agreed and discussed the timing of the attacks and possible target locations in Manhattan, including the subway system, Grand Central Terminal, the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, and the Times Square entertainment district with its numerous theaters.

Upon returning to the United States, Medunjanin, Zazi and Ahmedzay met and agreed to carry out suicide bombings during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which fell in late August and September 2009. Zazi agreed to prepare the explosives, and all three agreed to conduct coordinated suicide bombings. In July and August 2009, Zazi purchased large quantities of the component chemicals necessary to produce the explosive TATP (Triacetone Triperoxide) and twice checked into a hotel room near Denver, Colorado, to mix the chemicals. Federal law enforcement agents later discovered bomb-making residue in the Denver hotel room.

On Sept. 8, 2009, Zazi drove from Denver to New York, carrying operational detonator explosives and other materials necessary to build the suicide bombs. However, shortly after arriving in New York, he learned that law enforcement was closing in on him and his fellow operatives, according to the FBI.

In an unsuccessful effort to avoid detection, the men discarded the explosives and other bomb-making materials, and Zazi traveled back to Denver, where he was arrested on Sept. 19, 2009.

On Jan. 7, 2010, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at Medunjanin’s residence. Shortly thereafter, Medunjanin left his apartment and attempted to turn his car into a weapon of terror by crashing it into another car at high speed on the Whitestone Expressway. Moments before impact, Medunjanin called 9-1-1, identified himself, and left his message of martyrdom, shouting the al-Qaeda slogan: “We love death more than you love your life.”

To date, seven defendants, including Medunjanin, Zazi and Ahmedzay, have been convicted in connection with the al-Qaeda/New York City bombing plot and related charges.

The Moral Liberal Contributing Editor, Jim Kouri, CPP, is the fifth Vice President and Public Information Officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, has served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Contact Jim.