Suspected subway plotters busted in Europe

Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (r.) and Minister of Justice Knut Storberget discuss the arrest of three suspected Al Qaeda members with alleged ties to terrorist plots in the United States at a press conference in Oslo. AP Photo/Gorm Kallestad
By Connor Adams Sheets

Three suspected members of the global terror network that allegedly plotted to bomb the New York City subway system were arrested last week in Norway and Germany in a critical link to several Flushing residents accused of planning to carry out the attack, The New York Times reported.

The three men arrested July 8 are suspected of having had direct ties to Najibullah Zazi, a former Flushing resident who admitted in February to planning to blow up locations in the New York City subway system in September 2009 with the help of two former classmates of his at Flushing High School: Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay.

Medunjanin and Ahmedzay have pleaded not guilty and are facing terrorism charges for their alleged assistance in the plot.

The three men detained in Europe were Muslim immigrants in Norway and had ties to Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan as well as to men who planned to blow up a shopping center in Manchester, England, European and American counterterrorism officials told the Times.

The men in the three countries were members of “three parallel efforts or undertakings that all trace their lineage back to Pakistan,” the Times quoted a senior American intelligence official as saying.

The men — a Uighur from China, a Kurd from Iraq and an Uzbek — were members of the Turkistan Islamic Party, a Uighur separatist group based largely in Waziristan in western Pakistan, a European intelligence official said.

Zazi said earlier this year that he received military training in 2008 from Al Qaeda members in Waziristan, which is known as a haven for the terrorist group, and federal prosecutors have accused Ahmedzay and Medunjanin of having done the same.

The three Norway residents had been under surveillance for a year and had begun work on a peroxide-based explosive, according to the Times.

Norwegian officials who spoke with the Times said investigators wanted to keep watching the group, but decided to arrest the three men when they found out the Associated Press knew about the investigation. The AP had agreed to hold the story for security reasons.

The arrests came in the wake of the July 7 arrest of Abid Naseer, 24, whom the United States is seeking to have extradited from England for his suspected role in the New York City subway bombing plot, the Times reported.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn also charged in absentia Adnan el-Shukrijumah, 34, last week with crimes related to the subway bombing plot and at least one other plot, the newspaper said.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice statement, Shukrijumah was the only still-living member of a three-man panel that oversaw Al Qaeda’s attacks and planned attacks in America and other countries throughout the world.

Shukrijumah has yet to be arrested and the United States is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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