Washington: Veteran al Qaeda terrorist leaders in Pakistan directed and managed a foiled 2009 plot to attack New York`s subway system and also planned to strike the United Kingdom, US prosecutors have alleged.
The revelations came as prosecutors on Wednesday unsealed a terrorism indictment charging Adnan El Shukrijumah, al Qaeda`s leader of external operations, who has been the subject of a worldwide manhunt for seven years, with helping to recruit Colorado resident Najibullah Zazi for the foiled attack.
Zazi`s attempt to assemble and detonate improvised explosive devices was derailed by federal investigators on the eve of the eighth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Zazi pleaded guilty in February to his role in the plot.
Attorney General Eric Holder has called the thwarted New York plot one of the most dangerous since 9/11.
The investigation involving authorities in the US and Britain also revealed that El Shukrijumah`s associates were communicating with a British citizen, Abid Naseer, about a 2009 plot foiled in Manchester, England. Naseer was arrested on Wednesday by British authorities.
Between September and December 2008, prosecutors allege that El Shukrijumah and others recruited Zazi, a former Denver airport shuttle driver, and two other co-conspirators to conduct suicide bombings in New York using devices made from ordinary household supplies, such as hydrogen peroxide, acetone, flour and oil.
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.
His rank in al Qaeda was first outlined to federal investigators by al Qaeda operations chief Khalid Sheikh Mohammed following his capture. Mohammed, a Pakistani in US custody, is awaiting trial as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.
El Shukrijumah is charged specifically with providing and conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda, conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction, assisting the receipt of military training, committing and attempting to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries and using firearms in relation to the same offences.
He remains a fugitive and is the subject of a USD 5 million reward.
"These charges underscore the global nature of the terrorist threat we face," assistant attorney general David Kris said.