NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A New York man was sentenced Friday to life in prison for plotting an aborted suicide mission against New York City subways in 2009.
A jury found Adis Medunjanin guilty of all counts for his role in a terror plot that federal authorities say was one of the closest calls since Sept. 11, 2001. Prosecutors said when the plot was foiled, Medunjanin tried to commit another attack by crashing his car on the Whitestone Expressway in a bid to kill himself and others.
Testifying against Medunjanin was Najibullah Zazi, the confessed ring leader and bomb maker, and Zarein Ahmedzay, the New York cabbie whose job was to pick out their terror targets.
Prosecutors said Zazi and Medunjanin were friends who met as students in Flushing High School and became more and more radicalized by listening to lectures by radical Islamists. They eventually plotted to kill as many New Yorkers as possible by setting off bomb vests inside subways during rush hour, prosecutors said.
The trio traveled to Pakistan where they were trained by al Qaeda operatives in the use of assault rifles, machine guns and explosives, prosecutors said. They discussed attacking a variety of high-profile locations, like Grand Central Terminal, the New York Stock Exchange, and more, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors called half a dozen members of the NYPD’s Joint Terrorism Task Force to testify about the intense surveillance of the three men. Ironically, it was when Zazi, the ring leader, realized they were being followed and watched, that he abandoned the plot and fled back to Denver.
The taxi driver, Ahmedzay, testified that even though Medunjanin was eventually kept out of the planning and preparation for the terror attacks, he always planned to participate. Ahmedzay said the group should carry out the operation during the month of Ramadan.
During the case, for the first time, admitted homegrown terrorists discussed al Qaeda’s fixation with pulling off another attack on American soil.
Zazi testified that Medunjanin shared his views back then that “America is oppressing Muslims in Afghanistan” and that it was their duty to join the jihad and kill Americans.
When Medunjanin was trying to crash his car along the Whitestone Expressway, he called 911 and shouted “We love death more than you love your life,” an al Qaeda slogan, prosecutors said.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
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