The man who confessed to plotting the next 9-11 was sentenced to 40 years in prison for planning multiple attacks in New York City.
Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, 20, had “planned to detonate bombs in Times Square and the New York City subway system, and to shoot civilians at concert venues,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman. “El Bahnasawy aspired, in his words, to ‘create the next 9/11′.”
El Bahnasawy, a Canadian citizen, was arrested in May 2016 while traveling from Canada to New York. He was plotting with two others: Talha Haroon, a 20-year-old U.S. citizen arrested in Pakistan, and Russell Salic, a 38-year-old orthopedic surgeon and citizen of the Philippines, who was arrested in the Philippines.
The plans included a massive attack on Times Square, where the men planned to trap people inside the area called Crossroads of the World “and kill as many people as possible.”
A shooting attack was also planned for New York’s crowded subway lines. The attackers planned to wear suicide vests and blow themselves up before being apprehended or killed. They also researched upcoming concerts in the city and talked about choosing “a concert hall that (is) far away from cops.” Another plan was to attack a Jewish neighborhood.
Dates mentioned for the attacks were during the month of Ramadan or on Memorial Day 2016.
El Bahnasawy purchased bomb-making materials and helped rent a cabin he intended to use to build the explosive devices. Haroon, after meeting bomb experts in Pakistan, planned to travel to New York to help. Salic was charged with funding the operation by wiring money from the Philippines.
The men spoke with each other through chat apps. El Bahnasawy was snagged when he communicated with an undercover agent posing as an ISIS sympathizer. Haroon allegedly texted the same agent, “NY Needs to fall. This is a must.” He also said he wanted to “cause great destruction to the filthy (disbelievers) by our hands.”
According to those familiar with the case, the arrests were not the result of a sting operation; rather, FBI and NYPD investigators were onto El Bahnasawy early in the planning stages.
In one message, El Bahnasawy wrote, “(W)e seriously need a car bomb at Times Square…Look at these crowds of people!” In another communication, he said he wanted to “shoot up concerts cuz they kill a lot of people…(W)e just walk in with guns in our hands…That’s how the Paris guys did it.”
Haroon called the subway a “perfect” target and spoke of killing as many people as possible on a “very busy day,” not stopping even if there were “women or kids.” After shooting as many people as possible on the subway, Haroon added that if they “get trapped” or “when we run out of bullets we let the vests go off.”
“No mercy is rule one,” Haroon wrote. “I wanna kill … them in thousands. (W)e have to make a ocean out of their blood(.) Leave no one standing.”
Alert security forces foiled a number of jihadi plots planned for the New York area in recent years.