An ISIS-inspired plot to attack the New York City subway, concerts, and other landmarks was foiled in 2016. Now the terrorists, who said they wanted to create the “next 9/11,” have been charged on multiple terrorism counts.
Charged in the case are Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, 19, a Canadian citizen; Talha Haroon, 19, a US citizen living in Pakistan; and Russell Salic, 37, a Philippines citizen, the release said. According to prosecutors, all three have been arrested and El Bahnasawy has already pleaded guilty following his May 2016 arrest. Haroon and Salic have been arrested overseas, and the US is seeking to have them extradited to stand trial here.
El Bahnasawy allegedly traveled to New Jersey to carry out the attacks, purchased bomb-making materials and helped rent a cabin for building the devices, the news release said. Haroon is alleged to have planned to travel from Pakistan to New York to help and met with bomb experts in Pakistan. Salic is charged with wiring money from the Philippines to further the plot.
El Bahnasawy and Haroon allegedly communicated with an undercover officer posing as an ISIS supporter about their plot and declared their allegiance to ISIS in the communications, according to investigators.
Authorities tracked the international plot using an undercover officer.
According to the court documents, El Bahnasawy and Haroon claimed to the undercover agent to have contacts with an ISIS branch known as Khorasan Province, which is active in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
El Bahnasawy wrote of wanting to “create the next 9/11,” investigators said, and Haroon wanted to “cause great destruction to the filthy (disbelievers) by our hands.”
Targets included the subway, Times Square and concerts — inspired by the Paris attack. One message also mentioned targeting a Jewish neighborhood.
“(W)e seriously need a car bomb at Times Square. … Look at these crowds of people!” El Bahnasawy said in one message. He also talked of a desire to “shoot up concerts cuz they kill a lot of people. … (W)e just walk in with guns in our hands. … That’s how the Paris guys did it.”
Haroon called the subway a “perfect” target and spoke of killing as many people as possible on a “very busy day,” not stopping even if there were “women or kids.”
That would be followed up with explosions, Haroon said, adding, if they “get trapped” or “when we run out of bullets we let the vests go off.”
“No mercy is rule one,” Haroon said.
“I wanna kill . . . them in thousands,” he added later. “(W)e have to make a ocean out of their blood(.) Leave no one standing.”
El Bahnasawy bought bomb supplies including 40 pounds of hydrogen peroxide, a key ingredient in triacetone triperoxide (TATP), which is commonly used in improvised explosives, and he also bought batteries, Christmas lights, thermometers and aluminum foil, the court documents said. He then rented the cabin they would use to build the bombs.
Salic was introduced to the undercover agent by El Bahnasawy as a trusted supporter of ISIS who would help fund the operation. Using an alias, Salic then contacted the operative about transferring the money, and also said he was “desperate” to join ISIS in Syria. He wired just over $400 in mid-May to support the attacks.
I have no doubt the terrorists were dead serious and capable of carrying out the attacks. But talk of killing thousands with 40 pounds of TATP? Their plot is both chilling and pathetic. Bragging to each other how many people they were going to kill, “no mercy,” “make an ocean of their blood” — they sounded more like terrorist wannabees than ISIS trained militants.
That doesn’t make them any less criminal or any less frightening. We know that our counterterrorism efforts have prevented dozens of serious plots from coming to fruition since 9/11. This one, while it had a whiff of amateur hour about it, nevertheless represented a serious threat to Americans, and officials should be commended for their vigilance and hard work.