NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States charged five men on Wednesday with plotting to bomb New York City’s subway system and attack an unidentified target in Britain under orders from al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan.
Another two men -- Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay -- have already pleaded guilty to the New York subway bomb plot, which authorities foiled in September and described as the most serious threat to New York since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Adnan El Shukrijumah, Adis Medunjanin, Abid Naseer, Tariq Ur Rehman, and a fifth man known as “Ahmad,” were charged on Wednesday with 10 counts, including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and to commit murder in a foreign country.
Medunjanin, who attended a New York high school with Zazi and Ahmedzay, was arrested in January and has pleaded not guilty to charges related to the subway plot. New charges on Wednesday accused him of trying to crash his car into another car in New York in a last bid to carry out a suicide attack.
The indictment said Shukrijumah, who is accused of being an al Qaeda operations leader, and Ahmad “recruited and directed ... Adis Medunjanin, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay to conduct a terrorist attack in the United States.”
The New York plot was linked to the British plot by Ahmad, prosecutors said. Ahmad, an accused al-Qaeda facilitator in Peshawar, Pakistan, communicated with Zazi about the New York plot and with Naseer about a British plot, they said.
Naseer and Rehman were among 12 men detained on terrorism charges after a raid in northwest England in April 2009. Officials said they found surveillance photos of public areas in Manchester, but authorities did not have enough evidence to charge the men and they were released.
Naseer was arrested again in England on Wednesday and is awaiting extradition to the United States.
Rehman, Shukrijumah and Ahmad are still at large. The FBI has long said that Saudi Arabian native Shukrijumah, who has a Guyanese passport, was a threat to the United States and there is a $5 million reward for his capture.
Shukrijumah has also been linked by U.S. authorities to other terrorism suspects, including a group of men accused of planning to bomb fuel pipelines at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
U.S. prosecutors also said Saleh al-Somali, al Qaeda’s head of international operations, and Rashid Rauf, a British al Qaeda militant suspected of being the ringleader of a 2006 plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic, helped plan the failed New York subway attack. Both are believed to be dead.
No explosives were found in the New York case, but Zazi admitted receiving bomb-making and weapons training from al Qaeda in Pakistan’s Waziristan region bordering Afghanistan.
Editing by Michelle Nichols and Alan Elsner