WASHINGTON — Federal authorities unsealed charges against three men, including a U.S. citizen, who were part of an alleged 2016 plot targeting New York's Times Square and the city's subway system with coordinated bombings and shootings at concert venues.
The elaborate plot, planned in support of the Islamic State, was thwarted last year by federal authorities when the suspects confided in an FBI undercover agent who had convinced the group that he was an ISIS sympathizer.
Although the plan was disrupted more than a year ago, the suspects' arrests and details of the investigation remained secret until authorities completed a far-flung inquiry that stretched from Canada to Pakistan.
Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen, is awaiting extradition in Pakistan: Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, a 19-year-old Canadian citizen, pleaded guilty to terror-related charges last year; and Russell Salic, a 37-year-old Philippine citizen, was arrested in April and is awaiting extradition from the Philippines.
Communicating through various Internet messaging applications, the suspects allegedly plotted to conduct bombings and shootings in heavily populated areas of city last year during the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan, which fell between early June and and early July.
El Bahnasawy, according to court documents, obtained bomb-making materials and helped secure a cabin within driving distance of the city to use as a staging area for assembling the explosive devices. Haroon had allegedly planned to join El Bahnasawy in New York to carry out the assaults after meeting with explosives experts in Pakistan.
Salic, meanwhile, was identified as the financier of the operation, allegedly wiring money from the Philippines to the U.S.
In extensive communications with the undercover agent, El Bahnasawy allegedly boasted that he aspired to "create the next 9/11.”
According to court documents, El Bahnasawy and Haroon identified "multiple locations and events in and around New York City as targets," including subway, Times Square, and select venues.
Last May, El Bahnasawy allegedly sent the undercover FBI agent an image of Times Square with the message, stating "We seriously need a car bomb at times square...Look at these crowds of people!"
The same day, El Bahnasawy told the agent of his desire to attack concert venues "cuz they kill a lot of people."
“We just walk in with guns in our hands; that’s how the Paris guys did it," he allegedly told the agent.
El Bahnasawy's boasts are particularly chilling in the wake of the massacre in Las Vegas five days ago when a gunman opened fire on a music festival, unleashing a hail of gunfire from a hotel suite 32 floors above the venue.
El Bahnasawy, whose movements were being tracked by federal investigators, was arrested in May 2016 in New Jersey, after traveling to the United States from Canada in preparation for carrying out the NYC Attacks. Haroon was arrested in Pakistan four months later while Salic was detained earlier this year in Philippines.