Reporting from Washington — An unsuccessful plan to detonate homemade bombs in the New York subway system last year was orchestrated by senior Al Qaeda leaders who were also plotting a comparable attack in Britain, according to a terrorism indictment unsealed Wednesday.
"The charges announced today illustrated the coordinated and persistent attempts by our adversaries to harm American citizens," said George Venizelos, acting assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York office.
Adnan Shukrijumah, a U.S. citizen who was regarded as one of Al Qaeda's best hopes to execute a plot in post- 9/11 America, is among several new alleged Al Qaeda figures charged in the botched Manhattan attempt.
Two others indicted Wednesday, Abid Naseer and Tariq Ur Rehman, are also allegedly connected to the attack that was planned for English soil.
"These charges underscore the global nature of the terrorist threat we face," said David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security.
Three U.S. citizens have already been charged with plotting a series of suicide bombings on the New York subway during rush hour that would have taken place days after the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, both Afghan immigrants, pleaded guilty this year.
Bosnian-born Adis Medunjanin pleaded not guilty and is waiting for his day in court.
The indictment alleges that after Zazi was taken into custody, Medunjanin tried again to complete a suicide attack. On Jan. 7, he crashed his car into another vehicle in Queens, N.Y., dialing 911 moments before to state his name and his motives, authorities said.
"We love death," he told the 911 operator, according to the indictment.
The date for his trial has not been set.
Naseer, a British citizen, allegedly exchanged coded e-mails with the American Al Qaeda cell to hatch a plot, detailing plans for a "large wedding." Days before Zazi headed to New York from Colorado in early September, he wrote, "The marriage is ready," signaling that the attack was near execution, the indictment says.
After Naseer and Rehman were taken into custody in England in April 2009, a search of their residences yielded large amounts of flour and oil in addition to surveillance photos of public areas in Manchester and maps of Manchester's city center posted on the walls, the indictment says.
Naseer is in custody in England, and federal prosecutors plan to seek to extradite him for a trial. Rehman is no longer in custody. Shukrijumah's whereabouts are unknown.
In the wake of the New York case and other failed terrorist attacks, said David Schanzer, an associate professor and terrorism expert at Duke University, the indictment should boost public confidence in federal officials' ability to intercept a terrorist plot.
"A lot has been made of the attempted bombings in Detroit and Times Square," he said. "This case demonstrates that our intelligence and law enforcement authorities had leads and were able to prevent an attack that originated at the very top of Al Qaeda."