NEW YORK – The Department of Justice released details of a thwarted terror plot to attack New York City during the summer of 2016 on Friday, including the arrest of one of three suspects in Cranford, NJ.
Three men, who were arrested in 2016 and 2017, planned to detonate bombs in Times Square and the New York City subway system and shoot civilians at concert venues in support of ISIS, according to the Department of Justice.
The three arrested are Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, a 19-year-old Canadian citizen; Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen residing in Pakistan; and Russell Salic, a 37-year-old Philippine citizen, the DOJ said.
El Bahnasawy purchased bomb-making materials and helped secure a cabin within driving distance of the city where he planned to build the explosives, according to the DOJ. Haroon allegedly made plans to travel from Pakistan to New York City to join El Bahnasawy in carrying out the attacks, and traveled within Pakistan to meet with explosives experts in furtherance of the plot, the DOJ said. As El Bahnasawy and Haroon prepared to execute the NYC Attacks, Salic allegedly wired money from the Philippines to the United States to help fund the terrorist operation, according to the DOJ.
El Bahnasawy was arrested in Cranford on May 21, 2016 after traveling to the United States from Canada to prepare for the attacks, according to the DOJ. Haroon was arrested in Pakistan in September 2016 and Salic was arrested in the Philippines in April 2017, according to the DOJ.
The attack was thwarted by an undercover FBI agent feigning to be an ISIS supporter, federal officials said.
In May, El Bahnasawy and Haroon spoke to the agent about their plans in detail, according to federal officials.
“These Americans need an attack,” El Bahnasawy allegedly said to the undercover agent. He aspired to “create the next 9/11,” according to the DOJ.
According to the DOJ, Haroon told the undercover agent that New York “needs to fall. It’s a must.”
El Bahnasawy sent the undercover agent maps of the subway system that included identified lines to place explosives, according to the DOJ. He also said that he needed to “shoot up concerts ‘cuz they kill a lot of people” and that he wanted to “just walk in with guns in our hands. That’s how the Paris guys did it.”
That same month, El Bahnasawy, while in Canada, purchased an array of bomb-making materials, including approximately 40 pounds of hydrogen peroxide which is a primary ingredient in TATP (triacetone triperoxide), a powerful explosive commonly used in improvised explosive devices, the DOJ said. El Bahnasawy also purchased batteries, Christmas lights, thermometers, and aluminum foil for use in constructing explosive devices to carry out the NYC attacks, according to the DOJ.
According to federal officials, Haroon also told the undercover agent that he’d wanted to execute the attack on May 30, 2016 – Memorial Day.
“That’s a day that will change history,” Haroon allegedly said.
The three were arrested before an attack could be carried out. They each face several charges with consequences that range from 15 years to life in prison, according to the DOJ.
On October 13, 2016, El Bahnasawy pleaded guilty to terrorism offenses and is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 12, according to the DOJ. Salic and Haroon are awaiting extradition from the Philippines and Pakistan.