UK & World News
New Yorker Jailed For Role In Failed Bomb Plot
A Bosnia-born US citizen has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in a foiled suicide-bomb plot on New York City subways in 2009.
Adis Medunjanin, 28, was convicted this year of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, attempting to commit an act of terrorism and other terrorism charges in a plot authorities called one of the closest calls since the 9/11 attacks.
Prosecutors had argued for a life term for Medunjanin, saying he "committed a host of heinous crimes aimed at killing and maiming his fellow American citizens in order to alter and take revenge for American foreign policy".
The trial ending in May was mostly notable because it featured the first-ever testimony from admitted homegrown terrorists about al Qaeda's determination to strike America on its home turf.
Two of Medunjanin's former high school classmates, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, testified that the three men sought terror training after falling under the influence of inflammatory recordings of US-born extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
The government's case was built on the testimony of Zazi, Ahmedzay and two other men: a British would-be shoe bomber and a man originally from Long Island who gave al Qaeda pointers on how best to attack a Walmart store.
Zazi and Ahmedzay, who testified as part of plea deal, told jurors that the scheme unfolded after the trio travelled to Pakistan in 2008 to avenge the US invasion of Afghanistan.
While receiving terror training at outposts in the South Waziristan region of Pakistan, 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 were the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square and Grand Central Terminal, the men testified.
In a later meeting in New York, the plotters 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.
When leaving Pakistan, Zazi 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 September 11 attacks.
The plot - financed in part by $50,000 (£31,500) in credit card charges - was abandoned after Zazi noticed that everywhere he drove in New York, a car followed.
"I think law enforcement is on us," he recalled telling Ahmedzay. Later, he said he told Medunjanin in a text message, "We are done."
Aside from Zazi and Ahmedzay, two other convicted terrorists were called as witnesses to give a rare glimpse into al Qaeda's training methods and the mindset of its leadership.