Veteran Al Qaeda terrorist leaders in Pakistan directed and managed a foiled 2009 suicide bomb plot to attack New York’s subways and a related terror plot in Britain, US prosecutors have alleged.
The revelations came as a feared and elusive senior Al Qaeda leader, Adnan El Shukrijumah, and three other operatives were indicted in Brooklyn on Wednesday, the Justice Department announced in Washington.
The indictment, which supplements earlier charges brought against three other men, accuses Shukrijumah, who has been the subject of a worldwide manhunt for seven years, with helping to recruit Afghan-American Najibullah Zazi for the foiled attack.
The new charges for the first time link the subway plot with a planned Al Qaeda attack in Manchester, England, and contain the US government’s most detailed account on the development of the subway conspiracy and identities of its authors in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
The planned subway attack was "directly related to a scheme by Al Qaeda plotters in Pakistan to use Western operatives to attack a target in the United States", the indictment said.
It also described how Saleh al-Somali, who with Shukrijumah was then responsible for planning Al Qaeda attacks in the US and other Western countries, communicated from the tribal areas through "an Al Qaeda facilitator" in Peshawar, Pakistan.
The facilitator, according to the authorities, used the same e-mail account to send coded messages to the central figure in the subway plot, Najibullah Zazi, 24, in Denver and New York, and one of the Manchester plotters, Abid Naseer, in Britain.
The intermediary, who was identified in the indictment only as Ahmad or Zahid, was also charged.
Prosecutors also said that the investigation in the case found that Naseer was in Peshawar in November 2008, while Zazi was en route to the tribal areas where he and two high school classmates from New York received Al Qaeda training.
Zazi and one of those two men, Zarien Ahmedzay, 25, have pleaded guilty to a range of terrorism charges in the subway plot and are cooperating with federal authorities.
El Shukrijumah, a 34-year-old native of Saudi Arabia who once lived in South Florida, is known within Al Qaeda circles as "Ja'far the Pilot" because of his skills as a pilot.
He received flight training at around the same time as the 9/11 hijackers, and became the focus of intense concern among federal authorities in part because he spent so much time in the US and was familiar with the language and culture.
Naseer was one of 11 men - 10 of them Pakistanis - arrested in April 2009 by British authorities investigating the Manchester plot in one of Britain's most extensive counterterrorism operations since the 9/11 attacks.
Shukrijumah’s rank in Al Qaeda was first outlined to federal investigators by Al Qaeda operations Pakistani chief Khalid Sheikh Mohammed following his capture. Mohammed is awaiting trial as the mastermind of the Sep 11 attacks.