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Qaeda leader’s influence reached Flushing

The world’s attention on Sunday turned to Pakistan, where the long-awaited death of Osama bin Laden became America’s greatest triumph in the war against al-Qaeda — but in late 2009 and early 2010, the focus was on a few men in their 20s from Flushing.

The three men were arrested during that tense time in connection with a plot to carry out suicide bombings at three key Manhattan subway stations on the morning of the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The plot was described by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as “one of the most serious terrorist threats to our nation since Sept. 11th, 2001.”

Afghan national Najibullah Zazi, the ringleader of the scheme, was arrested Sept. 19, 2009, in Colorado, and pleaded guilty Feb. 22, 2010, in federal court in Brooklyn to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and providing material support to al-Qaeda. He faces a maximum of two life sentences plus 15 years in prison as well as $750,000 in fines at his sentencing hearing June 24.

Two of Zazi’s former classmates at Flushing High School, one-time Queens College attendee Zarein Ahmedzay and Queens College graduate Adis “Mohammed” Medunjanin, were arrested in northeast Queens Jan. 7, 2010.

Ahmedzay, who was arrested in Flushing, eventually pleaded guilty to terrorism charges and he and Zazi have cooperated with law enforcement officials against other terror suspects, including Flushing Imam Ahmad Wais Afzali. The imam was exiled after he admitted to lying in the course of a terror investigation to authorities, whom he falsely told repeatedly that he had not informed Zazi that he was under investigation.

Adis Medunjanin denied Aug. 6, 2010, in federal court in Brooklyn that he was involved in the plot and pleaded not guilty to a charge added in July 2010 alleging that he tried to commit suicide by crashing his car on the Whitestone Expressway as police attempted to arrest him in January after he left his Mitchell Linden apartment.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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