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Terror trial: N.Y. cinemas were potential targets, witness says

April 18, 2012|By Tina Susman
  • Adis Medunjanin testified Tuesday in the trial of his alleged co-conspirator. Prosecutors said they planned to bomb targets in New York.
Adis Medunjanin testified Tuesday in the trial of his alleged co-conspirator.… (U.S. Attorney's Office…)

An Afghan immigrant who admitted planning to bomb New York City targets to protest the war in his homeland takes the stand again Wednesday in the trial of an alleged co-conspirator in the plot, which officials called "one of the most serious threats" to the country since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Najibullah Zazi began his testimony Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan, looking far different from the defiant, bearded man who stood in a courtroom in February 2010 and pleaded guilty to terror-related charges. Zazi, 26, and two friends he knew from Queens, N.Y. -- Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay -- were charged in the plot. Zazi and Ahmedzay pleaded guilty.

Medunjanin's trial opened Monday, with Ahmedzay relating the trio's travels through Pakistan, their time at an Al Qaeda training camp in 2008, and their return to New York with orders to find suitable targets to attack in the city. They considered everything from cinemas to Grand Central Terminal, the New York Stock Exchange, and Times Square before settling on subways, said Ahmedzay.

Zazi said Tuesday the idea of attacking a Wal-Mart store also came up.

Initially, Zazi said, he thought the notion that the three friends' Al Qaeda handlers in Pakistan wanted them to carry out an attack on U.S. soil was "a joke." The trio's original plan, hatched in Queens -- where they got to know each other through school and their mosque, was to "fight alongside the Taliban" against U.S. forces in Afghanistan, he said.

The idea of bombing anything fell apart shortly before the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks when Zazi -- who by then had moved to Denver -- was pulled over by police as he drove a rental car in New York City. Fearing he was under surveillance, Zazi decided to abort the mission. He was arrested days later in Denver. Ahmedzay, also an Afghan immigrant, and Medunjanin, a Bosnian, were arrested in New York.

Neither Zazi nor Ahmedzay has yet been sentenced, but each faces life in prison after pleading guilty to charges of conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiring to commit murder and providing support to Al Qaeda.


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