A New York man was convicted on Tuesday of plotting a suicide mission against New York City subways in 2009.
According to a report in The Associated Press, 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.
“This is Terrorism 101,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Berit Berger was quoted as having said in closing arguments in a federal court in Brooklyn. “The goal of this conspiracy was to kill as many people as possible.”
Medunjanin could be ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 7, according to the report.
Defense attorney Robert Gottlieb said he disagreed with the verdict and would appeal, but said the trial showed that the U.S. court system is best for prosecuting terror crimes.
“The world and our national government including all our politicians should take note that this is the way crimes should be decided, not in a military commission, not in a star chamber, but in America,” Gottlieb said.
Medunjanin showed no visible reaction to the verdicts.
The defense admitted that the Bosnian-born Medunjanin wanted to fight for the Taliban, but they insisted he never agreed to spread death and destruction in New York.
According to Gottlieb’s closing statement, the 27-year-old Medunjanin went overseas to fulfill a “romantic version of jihad. ... His plan and intent was to join the Taliban and stand up for what he believes in. That was his purpose.”
The government's case was built on the testimony of four men, including two other radicalized Muslim men from Queens who pleaded guilty in the same subway plot, a British would-be shoe bomber and a man originally from Long Island who gave the al-Qaeda terror group pointers on how best to attack a Walmart store.
Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, both former high school classmates of Medunjanin, told jurors that the scheme unfolded after the trio traveled to Pakistan in 2008 to avenge the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
They received terror training at outposts in the South Waziristan region of Pakistan, AP reported, at which point al-Qaeda operatives encouraged the American recruits to return home for a suicide-bombing mission intended to spread panic and cripple the economy.
Among the targets considered, according to the report, were the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square and Grand Central Terminal.
The plotters later decided to strap on bombs and blow themselves up at rush hour on Manhattan subway lines because the transit system is “the heart of everything in New York City,” Zazi said in his testimony.
Zazi told jurors how he learned to distill explosives ingredients from nail polish remover, hydrogen peroxide and other products sold at beauty supply stores. When leaving Pakistan, he relocated to Colorado, where he perfected a homemade detonator in a hotel room and set out for New York City by car around the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The plot was abandoned after Zazi noticed that everywhere he drove in New York, a car followed. He recalled sending Medunjanin a text message saying, “We are done.”
The other convicted terrorists were called as witnesses to give a rare glimpse into al-Qaeda's training methods and the mindset of its leadership, the report said.
One witness, terrorist Saajid Badat, recounted a meeting where Osama bin Laden explained that the best way to bring the U.S. down is attacking its economy because, as he said, “the American economy is like a chain. If you break one — one link of the chain — the whole economy will be brought down.”
Another witness, Bryant Neal Vinas, testified that in the summer of 2008 he suggested to al-Qaeda operatives to plant explosives in suitcase aboard a Long Island Rail Road train or hide them inside a television that was being returned to a Walmart.
Vinas said that an attack on the popular retail outlet “would cause a very big economy hit.”