2009 New York City Subway and United Kingdom plot

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The 2009 New York City Subway and United Kingdom plot was a plan to bomb the New York City Subway as well as a target in the United Kingdom.

In September 2009, several individuals fell under suspicion and were arrested due to fears that a suspected jihadist cell in New York was planning to explode bombs in the United States. According to a July 2010 indictment, the cell had members in London plotting to carry out a companion bombing in the United Kingdom.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] Information gathered during the interrogation of one of the men triggered a nationwide bomb alert. Officials were told to be on alert for individuals with burns on their hands that might be chemical burns.[8][9] They were told to be on alert for apartments with bad smells, or with multiple window fans.


Najibullah Zazi, his father Mohammed Wali Zazi, and imam Ahmad Wais Afzali were arrested on 19 September 2009, for lying in a matter involving terrorism.[4] All three men were long-time legal residents of the U.S., born in Afghanistan. According to the Chicago Tribune, American security officials suspected up to 12 individuals.[10]

The central figure in the United States wing of the group was 24-year-old Zazi, said by the FBI to have been trained in the use of weapons and explosives at an Al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan in 2008.[10] Zazi had initially said that trips he made to Pakistan in 2007 and 2008 were to visit his wife.[4] His last trip lasted five months. Zazi acknowledged receiving weapons and explosives training in Pakistan's semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas.[4] The FBI found images of hand-written notes on how to build bombs on Zazi's laptop. Zazi said he was unaware of these notes, and speculated that he might have downloaded them accidentally with a religious book he had downloaded in August. The FBI found Zazi's fingerprints on a scale and on batteries found in a house in Queens they raided after his visit.

In 2009, Zazi was living in Colorado, and got a license to work as an airport shuttle driver. Previously he had lived in Queens, New York City, where he was eventually declared bankrupt. Zazi had been under surveillance for some time, prior to renting a car for a trip to New York on 9 September 2009.[4]

On 9 January 2010, two more men were arrested in connection to the bomb plot. Taxi driver Zarein Ahmedzay and Bosnian immigrant Adis Medunjanin were charged with making false statements to the police, and pleaded not guilty. Medunjanin was arrested after his car crashed on the Whitestone Bridge on 7 January in New York City.[11] The July indictment, noting Medunjanin called an operator and said "We love death", alleged that the crash was intentional and part of a suicide attack.[7]

Other persons of interest[edit]

Another man who was questioned was Naiz Khan, who attended the same mosque as Najibullah Zazi when he lived in New York.[12] A U-haul dealership in Queens had contacted authorities to tell them that it had recently declined to rent a van to three suspicious men whose credit cards had been declined and wanted to pay cash. Naiz Khan was questioned about the failed rental, but denied he had ever been to the U-haul dealership. Khan's apartment was one of those that had been searched because Zazi was believed to have stayed there.[13] According to The New York Times, Zazi had shared an apartment with Khan, Amanullah Akbari, and three other men, when he lived in New York a year earlier.[14]

On 7 July 2010, five Al Qaeda members were indicted in relation to the alleged plot. Abid Naseer and Tariq Ur Rehman were charged with involvement in a companion plot in the United Kingdom.[5][7] Naseer was already in custody after his arrest for sending e-mails to an al-Qaeda operative in Pakistan that were reported to be at the heart of a plot to bomb targets in north-west England.[15] On 3 January 2013, Abid Naseer was extradited from the UK to the US.[16] On 4 March 2015, Naseer was found guilty by a Brooklyn court of plotting bomb attacks in the US and of plotting to blow up the Arndale Centre in Manchester. Most of the evidence in his trial consisted of email exchanges between Naseer and an al-Qaeda handler who was directing plots to attack civilians in Manchester, New York City and Copenhagen. It was the first terrorist trial to include documents recovered during the 2009 Navy Seal raid against Osama bin Laden’s compound.[17][18][19]

Adnan Shukrijumah, reported to be charge of planning Al Qaeda attacks worldwide, was charged with plotting and recruiting members for the New York attack. Over four years later, in December 2014, Shukrijumah was killed in a Pakistani manhunt operation.

In the wake of NSA worker Edward Snowden's surveillance disclosures, the U.S. government argued NSA spying helped foil the subway plot by tracking communications between Zazi and a bombmaker in Pakistan.


  1. ^ Karen Zraik; David Johnston (15 September 2009). "Man in Queens Raids Denies Any Terrorist Link". New York Times. Archived from the original on 21 September 2009. 
  2. ^ David Johnston; Al Baker (18 September 2009). "Denver Man Admits to a Possible Al Qaeda Connection, Officials Say". New York Times. Archived from the original on 21 September 2009. 
  3. ^ David Johnston; William K. Rashbaum (20 September 2009). "Terror Suspect Had Bomb Guide, Authorities Say". New York Times. Archived from the original on 21 September 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Catherine Tsai; P. Solomon Banda (21 September 2009). "Timeline of events in NYC terror probe". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 21 September 2009. 
  5. ^ a b Feds NYC Subway Plotters Targeted London, Too
  6. ^ Five charged as al Qaeda plotters in U.S. and U.K. CNN July 7, 2010
  7. ^ a b c Copy of July 2010 indictment
  8. ^ Tom Hays; P. Solomon Banda (16 September 2009). "Colo. man denies terrorist ties after NYC raids". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 22 September 2009. The FBI and Homeland Security intelligence warning, issued to police departments, lists indicators that could tip off police to the peroxide-based bombs, such as people with burn marks on their hands, face or arms; foul odors coming from a room or building; and large industrial fans or multiple window fans. 
  9. ^ Tom Hays; Bonny Ghosh (16 September 2009). "NYC man: FBI asked in raids about Denver visitor". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 22 September 2009. The warning, obtained by The Associated Press, also said that these homemade explosive materials can be hidden in backpacks, suitcases or plastic containers. The notice was not intended for the public, said Justice Department spokesman Richard Kolko. Homeland Security and the FBI have no specific information on the timing or target of any planned attack, Kolko said, but 'we believe it is prudent to share information with our state and local partners about the variety of domestically available materials that could be used to create homemade explosives, which have been utilized in previous terrorist attacks.' 
  10. ^ a b Josh Meyer; Tina Susman; DeeDee Corrrell (21 September 2009). "Up to 12 may be involved in terror plot". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 2 September 2009. Retrieved 2 August 2009. 
  11. ^ http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/arrested+bomb+plot+probe/2424125/story.html
  12. ^ Steven K. Paulson (19 September 2009). "Man in terror probe meets with attorney, not FBI". Yahoo News. Archived from the original on 22 September 2009. 
  13. ^ "Man questioned in alleged terror plot declines more FBI talks". CNN. 20 September 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2009. 
  14. ^ Karen Zraik (15 September 2009). "Terrorism Task Force Raids Queens Apartments". New York Times. Archived from the original on 22 September 2009. 
  15. ^ Terror suspect Abid Naseer held on US warrant BBC July 7, 2010
  16. ^ "Al-Qaeda Terror Suspect Abid Naseer Extradited From UK To US". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 3 January 2013. 
  17. ^ Associated Press. "Abid Naseer found guilty of al-Qaida bomb plot by New York court". theguardian.com. The Guardian. 
  18. ^ Britton, Paul. "Guilty: Al Qaida terrorist Abid Naseer plotted to blow up Manchester Arndale and a New York subway". manchestereveningnews.co.uk. Manchester Evening News. 
  19. ^ Davies, Helen. "Liverpool student terrorist Abid Naseer found guilty in New York of plotting attacks". liverpoolecho.co.uk. Liverpool Echo.