Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty Monday afternoon to plotting with al-Qaeda associates to carry out a string of bombings in the New York City subway system within days of Sept. 11, 2009.
Zazi, 25, an Afghan immigrant who lived for years in Flushing, calmly admitted before Judge Raymond Dearie in federal court in Brooklyn that he participated in the plot after being recruited by al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan in spring and summer of 2008.
Zazi pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing material support to al-Qaeda. He will face a maximum of two life sentences plus 15 years in prison, as well as $750,000 in fines at his sentencing hearing June 25.
After Zazi described his scheme — with which federal prosecutors allege he had the help of former Flushing High School classmates Adis Medunjanin and Zasrein Ahmedzay — as a “martyrdom operation,” Dearie asked if that meant he had planned to carry out a suicide bombing.
“I have a different definition to that,” Zazi said. “To me it meant that I would sacrifice myself to bring attention to what the U.S. military is doing to civilians in Afghanistan, sacrifice my soul to save other souls.”
A document outlining the plea agreement both sides of the case agreed to was sealed at their request by Dearie.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday that “there’s no doubt American lives were saved” by law enforcement’s efforts to stop the plot.
“With today’s guilty plea we’ve brought swift justice,” he said. “But we will not rest until everybody involved is held responsible.”
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cn
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