BY JIM KOURI
A Pakistani national accused of taking part in an international al-Qaeda plot to attack targets in the United States and the European Union pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges during his first U.S. court appearance on Monday in Brooklyn (King’s County), N.Y., according to the FBI.
Abid Naseer was extradited on Thursday from the United Kingdom to United States. The 26-year-old Islamist faces up to life in prison on charges including providing material support to al-Qaeda and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in connection with an alleged plot to bomb a city center in Manchester, England, Justice Department officials stated.
During his brief court appearance in Brooklyn federal court, Naseer pleaded not guilty to the charges through his court-appointed attorney. The judge ordered Naseer to be held in detention without bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for Mar. 7, 2013.
According to the indictment, other court filings, evidence presented to the court in support of Naseer’s extradition, and evidence from the trials of Adis Medunjanin and Mohammed Wali Zazi in the Eastern District of New York, in September 2008, al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan recruited Medunjanin, Najibullah Zazi, and Zarein Ahmedzay, three friends from New York City, to conduct a suicide bombing attack in New York City.
The al-Qaeda leaders, including Adnan El-Shukrijumah and Saleh al-Somali, communicated with Zazi about the plot through an al Qaeda facilitator named “Ahmad” in Peshawar, Pakistan. In early September 2009, after Medunjanin, Zazi, and Ahmedzay had selected the New York City subway system as their target, Zazi e-mailed with “Ahmad” in Pakistan about the proper ingredients for the main charge explosive, which included flour and oil. Zazi pleaded guilty to his role in the plot on Feb. 22, 2010. Ahmedzay pleaded guilty on April 23, 2010. Medunjanin was convicted after trial on May 1, 2012.
The investigation by authorities in the United States and United Kingdom revealed that “Ahmad” was also communicating with Naseer. Naseer, like Zazi, was in Peshawar, Pakistan, in November 2008, according to the court filings. After returning to the United Kingdom, Naseer sent messages back and forth to the same e-mail account that “Ahmad” was using to communicate with the American-based al-Qaeda cell on behalf of Saleh al-Somali, the indictment and court filings allege. In the messages, Naseer used coded language to refer to different types of explosives, said law enforcement officials.
At the culmination of the plot, in early April 2009, Naseer, again using coded language, told “Ahmad” that he was planning a large “wedding” for numerous guests between April 15 and 20, 2009, and that “Ahmad” should be ready. Notably, evidence at Medunjanin’s trial established that “Ahmad” and Zazi had agreed on a similar code to mean the New York City attack was ready to be executed and that Zazi e-mailed Ahmad that “the marriage is ready” just before he drove to New York in early September 2009.
On April 8, 2009, Naseer and several associates were arrested in the United Kingdom. In connection with these arrests, U.K. authorities conducted searches of the plotters’ homes, where they found large quantities of flour and oil, as well as surveillance photographs of public areas in Manchester and maps of Manchester’s city center posted on the wall, with one of the locations from the surveillance photographs highlighted.
On Jan. 30, 2012, three defendants were also convicted in a Norwegian court of plotting a similar terrorist attack in Denmark as part of the same overall multinational al Qaeda conspiracy. During that trial, the United States made available to the Norwegian prosecutors three witnesses who also pleaded guilty to terrorism offenses in the Eastern District of New York: Najibullah Zazi, Zarein Ahmedzay, and Bryant Neal Vinas.
Self-Educated American 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.