Feds: N.Y. Subway Bomb Plot Included U.K. Targets Last fall's plot to detonate homemade explosives on New York City subways was part of a plan that included bombing targets in Manchester, England, as well, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday. And U.S. authorities say senior al-Qaida leadership took part in the planning.
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Feds: N.Y. Subway Bomb Plot Included U.K. Targets

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Feds: N.Y. Subway Bomb Plot Included U.K. Targets

Feds: N.Y. Subway Bomb Plot Included U.K. Targets

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This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Mary Louise Kelly.

Prosecutors have unsealed new charges in a terrorism plot from last fall. That's the case of Najibullah Zazi, a shuttle bus driver from the Denver area. He pleaded guilty to planning attacks on subway stations in New York City. Now we find out that the plan was also supposed to include targets in Britain. NPR's counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston is here with the latest.

Hi, Dina.


KELLY: OK. So start off, just remind us what the details were of the New York City plot last fall.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, remember this is the plot that involved this Afghan immigrant who was a legal U.S. resident in New York, originally. His name was Najibullah Zazi and he admitted to getting explosives training in an al-Qaida camp in Pakistan. He said that he was sent back to the U.S. after training and was told that he was supposed to build some bombs and blow up transportation targets in the U.S.

Now, he was arrested back in September of last year, and he's pleaded guilty to all the charges in this case. And when he was arrested, Attorney General Eric Holder said this was the most serious plot against the United States since 9/11.

KELLY: And now with this new indictment, the plot would seem to be even more serious than U.S. officials had thought.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. I mean, the indictment, it revealed for the first time, that this plot involved more than just New York. I mean, allegedly there was a companion plot planned for targets in Manchester, England. And a suspect there apparently trained in Peshawar, Pakistan with Zazi back in late 2008.

And authorities raided his apartment last year and they found what they said were homemaking materials that were very similar to what apparently Zazi had been putting together. And they allegedly found, you know, surveillance photographs of public places around Manchester and maps up on the wall with these places marked. And one source told me that they were actually targeting shopping centers for these possible homemade explosives.

So if you're looking for similarities between the plots, you know, there are a lot. They were allegedly using the same bomb-making materials and techniques. They were using, funnily enough, the same code language, using the same al-Qaida sort of middle man.

Apparently, just before Zazi left Denver for New York to launch the attacks, he sent an email to this al-Qaida contact saying the marriage is ready. And that code, apparently, was the same kind of code that they used in the U.K.

KELLY: And we hear a lot about lone wolf terrorists these days - people radicalized on their own. That's not the case here. I mean, I understand they're tracing a connection all the way back to al-Qaida's senior leadership on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. I mean, the new indictment provided a little more detail about that. We reported back in October, shortly after Najibullah Zazi was arrested, that he'd met with some senior al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan. And we said then, that they'd helped plan the attack.

Yesterday, what we found out in this new indictment was that prosecutors have added a new name to that list. And the name is a man named Adnan Shukrijumah. And I know that name doesn't mean anything to anybody, but he's been on the FBI's Most Wanted List since 2003. And more than that, he's one of the few people in al-Qaida's core leadership that really understands the U.S.

He actually lived here for 15 years. He had a childhood in Brooklyn in the 1980s and early '90s. He went to community college in Florida. His father was actually in charge of a mosque there. He speaks English really well. And that's one of the reasons that my sources say that they think he's been made, you know, in charge of external operations for al-Qaida, because he can move around quite easily. He almost looks like he's South Asian or Hispanic. And now there's a $5 million bounty on his head.

KELLY: Meanwhile, there were some new arrests overnight in Norway. Are they connected to all this?

TEMPLE-RASTON: We think so. Sources tell me that these Norway arrests - there were three arrests. I think there were two in Oslo and one in Germany. And it's unclear whether these were related to that U.K. plot that we were just talking about in Manchester, or whether there was a separate plot in Norway to do something there. It's a little too sketchy now. But we know that this has to do with the unsealing of this - superseding indictment yesterday.

KELLY: Dina, another story you've been following. I want to change gears just quickly. This is the case of the alleged Russian spies. And we're hearing they may have made some sort of swap with U.S. spies in Russia. What is the latest on that story, quickly?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, they're still working that out. But there's supposed to be - the swap hasn't been worked out yet - but there's supposed to be an arraignment in New York today. And we can get some clues today if the people who are arraigned actually plead guilty to lesser charges.

Because what we're hearing, is they're going to plead guilty to lesser charges and then actually be deported to Russia. And we're also hearing there's some movement in Russia about getting some people together who might be coming here.

KELLY: OK. Thank you, Dina.

TEMPLE-RASTON: You're very welcome.

KELLY: That's NPR's Dina Temple-Raston, updating us there on two stories.

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