NEW YORK • A plot to detonate bombs in Times Square and the New York City subway system and to open fire at concert venues last year was quietly thwarted, US federal officials have disclosed.
The bombings and shootings, which were planned in support of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), would have taken place during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan last year, which began in June, US officials said in a statement on Friday.
Three men involved in the plot were arrested. One of them, Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, a 19-year-old Canadian citizen, has been in custody since his arrest in May 2016, and he has pleaded guilty to terrorism offences, officials said.
The others - Russell Salic, a 37-year-old Filipino, and Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old American living in Pakistan - have been arrested overseas, and are expected to be extradited to the United States.
El Bahnasawy bought bomb-making materials in Canada for use in the attacks, including hydrogen peroxide, a primary ingredient commonly used in improvised explosive devices, officials said.
He helped to secure a cabin within driving distance of New York City, where the devices would be built and for staging the attacks.
The men, communicating through Internet messaging applications, intended to carry out bombings and shootings in heavily populated areas of New York.
We will show them what they hadn't seen in 2001.
ABDULRAHMAN EL BAHNASAWY, a 19-year-old Canadian citizen, who conveyed his desire to carry out a terrorist attack in New York City to rival the Sept 11, 2001 attacks. He has pleaded guilty to terrorism offences
Officials said the plot was broken up by the FBI and the New York Police Department. Criminal complaints unsealed in US District Court in Manhattan on Friday show that an undercover FBI agent, who posed as an ISIS supporter, had convinced the men that he was prepared to carry out the attacks with them.
In a communication in April 2016, El Bahnasawy introduced himself to the undercover agent, saying, "I'm one of the guys from the US project," according to one complaint. He conveyed his desire to carry out a terrorist attack in New York City, and said "we will show them what they hadn't seen in 2001". He was referring to the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in New York City that killed nearly 3,000 people.
In May last year, El Bahnasawy wrote about plans to detonate a car bomb in Times Square. "We need a really strong bomb," he said.
He identified as potential targets specific concerts due to take place in the next month in and around New York City, the complaint says.
"We should pick a concert in a closed area," he said.
Haroon expressed his enthusiasm for a plan to attack the subway system in a communication with the undercover agent in May 2016.
Haroon told the agent they could get on a subway and, on the way to the next station, "kill all in the train". He also wrote: "Remember, do not stop shooting even if u see women or kids... No mercy is rule one."