In this courtroom sketch, Adis Medunjanin, second from right, accused… (Elizabeth Williams/Associated…)
As Americans commemorated the anniversary of the raid that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden – and endured the heavily partisan fight over whether President Obama’s supporters were too effusive in their praise of his actions – another victory against terrorism was being celebrated by officials in a Brooklyn courtroom.
After less than two days of deliberation, a jury on Tuesday convicted Adis Medunjanin, 28, of Queens N.Y., of conspiracy and terrorism charges in connection with a planned suicide bombing attack on the New York City subway system in 2009. He faces mandatory life in prison when he's sentenced Sept. 7, officials said. An appeal of the conviction is expected.
Officials said they'd foiled one of the most serious terror plots since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon near Washington ushered in the age of Islamic terrorism aimed at the United States. Those attacks also brought the U.S. response, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and continuing battles to keep Americans safe from a variety of foreign-inspired attacks, such as Medunhjanin’s plot and those involving explosives hidden in the shoes or underwear of suicide terrorists.
“I want to commend prosecutors for the conviction of Adis Medunjanin,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly stated. “His conviction stands as a stark reminder of terrorists' desire long after 9/11 to return to the city to kill more New Yorkers.”
“Adis Medunjanin was an active and willing participant in one of the most serious terrorist plots against the homeland since 9/11. Were it not for the combined efforts of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, the suicide bomb attacks that he and others planned would have been devastating,” Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a prepared statement.
Medunjanin was born in Bosnia but raised in Queens. Former classmates Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, who testified as part of a plea deal, told the jury how the trio became radicalized and sought terror training. They went to Pakistan in 2008 to learn how to take revenge on the United States for its invasion of Afghanistan.
“Adis Medunjanin’s journey of radicalization led him from Flushing, Queens, to Peshawar, Pakistan, to the brink of a terrorist attack in New York City – and soon to a lifetime in federal prison,” said U.S. Atty. Loretta E. Lynch, whose office handled the prosecution.
It was in the training areas in the south Waziristan region of Pakistan that Al Qaeda encouraged the men to go back to the United States and carry out a suicide mission that would spread fear and damage the economy. Among the targets discussed were the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square, Grand Central Terminal and movie theaters, the men testified.
But they decided to focus on the subways because it is “the heart of everything in New York City,” Zazi said.
Medunjanin, Zazi and Ahmedzay returned to United States and agreed to carry out suicide bombings during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which fell in late August and September 2009, according to investigators. Zazi would prepare the explosives, and all three would conduct coordinated suicide bombings. In July and August 2009, Zazi purchased large quantities of component chemicals necessary to produce the explosive triacetone triperoxide and twice checked into a hotel room near Denver to mix the chemicals. Federal investigators said they later found bomb-making residue in the hotel room.
On Sept. 8, 2009, Zazi drove from Denver to New York, carrying materials to build bombs. However, shortly after arriving in New York, he learned that law enforcement was investigating the group’s activities. The men discarded the explosives and other bomb-making materials, and Zazi traveled back to Denver, where he was arrested on Sept. 19, 2009.
On Jan. 7, 2010, law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at Medunjanin’s residence. Shortly thereafter, Medunjanin left his apartment and deliberately crashed his car into another vehicle on the Whitestone Expressway, authorities said. Moments before impact, Medunjanin called 911, identified himself and left a message of martyrdom, shouting an Al Qaeda slogan: “We love death more than you love your life.”