An East Elmhurst man on Friday admitted that he planned to commit a terrorist attack in Queens on behalf of ISIS in August 2019.
Awais Chudhary, 22, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, pleaded guilty on Aug. 26 in Brooklyn federal court to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization.
Chudhary was 19 when federal agents and the NYPD raided his East Elmhurst home and found incriminating evidence on his cellphone. He later identified targets, including pedestrian bridges over the Grand Central Parkway and the Flushing Bay Promenade and the World’s Fair Marina, where he intended to carry out the attacks, according to court filings.
“Awais Chudhary has admitted to planning to carry out a lone wolf terrorist attack in Queens against innocent civilians in an embrace of ISIS’ murderous cause,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “Thanks to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Chudhary’s efforts to commit deadly violence on behalf of ISIS were thwarted, lives were saved, and he now awaits sentencing for his heinous crimes.”
Chudhary faces up to 20 years in prison when sentenced.
In August 2019, Chudhary pledged his allegiance to ISIS’ then-leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi after watching violent terrorist propaganda videos, according to court filings. He then sought guidance from individuals whom he believed to be ISIS supporters, including what type of knife to use and how to prevent detection from law enforcement by not leaving “traces of fingerprints [or] DNA.” Chudhary also sent a screenshot of a document from an ISIS propaganda magazine that included a diagram of the human body depicting where to stab victims with a knife. Chudhary conducted several reconnaissance trips to the Queens locations and made video recordings of the area he planned to attack.
“As he admitted today, Mr. Chudhary planned to bring terror to the people of New York City on behalf of ISIS,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said. “The Joint Terrorism Task Force, with its tireless vigilance, was able to successfully disrupt his plot, keeping our city safe from this potential lone wolf terrorist.”
Chudhary conducted multiple reconnaissance trips to the targeted locations. On Aug. 24, FBI agents allegedly surveilled Chudhary entering the Promenade in the vicinity of 27th Avenue and Ditmars Boulevard and taking videos and photos with his cellphone of various locations, including the marina, a nearby gas station, a doughnut shop and a security camera near the doughnut shop, according to court documents.
Chudhary ordered items online that he intended to use to commit a terrorist attack, including a tactical knife, a mask, gloves, a cellphone chest and head strap to facilitate his recording of the attack, which he hoped would serve as inspiration to other ISIS supporters, according to court filings. Chudhary was arrested as he attempted to retrieve the items from an online retailer’s locker in Queens.
“Mr. Chudhary has admitted to providing material support, from American soil, to terrorists based overseas,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. “He is a naturalized U.S. citizen who abandoned the country that took him in, and instead pledged allegiance to ISIS and repeatedly and diligently promoted its violent objectives. Clearly, the threat of ISIS-inspired terrorism remains very real, and the members of the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force will never stop working to identify anyone aiding groups that consider our country their sworn enemy.”