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Flushing men indicted in subway bombing plot

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Federal prosecutors charged two Flushing men last Thursday as participants in a plan to bomb the New York City subway system during rush hour under the leadership of admitted terror plotter Najibullah Zazi, who used to live in the same Queens neighborhood.

Adis Medunjanin, 25, and Zarein Ahmedzay, 25 — who were arrested in January and already being held on lesser charges — were indicted last week and charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, providing material support to a terrorist organization, receiving military-type training from al-Qaeda and making material false statements in connection with the thwarted September 2009 plot.

Medunjanin and Ahmedzay, both of whom attended Flushing High School with Zazi, pleaded not guilty to the charges last Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn. The three men each face life in prison if convicted of the charges.

Ahmad Wais Afzali, the Flushing imam charged with informing Zazi that the authorities were on his trail and lying to federal agents about his conversations with him, appeared in court Tuesday, but did not enter a plea as had been expected.He was scheduled to appear in court again this Thursday.

Zazi, 25, pleaded guilty Feb. 22 to being recruited by al-Qaeda, attending a terrorist training camp and plotting to carry out a string of bombings in the New York City subway system. Since then he has been cooperating with authorities in the investigation of the case, according to The New York Times, a choice which indicates he may be seeking leniency in his sentencing or trying to protect his family in the United States against threatened legal actions.

Prosecutors said there may be additional charges and unidentified “overseas” defendants involved in the plot, which was planned to be “similar to the London subway attack back in 2005,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Knox.

“If we’re going to bring additional charges, we’ll do so promptly,” Knox told Judge Raymond Dearie last Thursday.

Knox did not indicate who the new defendants might be and Medunjanin’s attorney, Robert Gottlieb, said he had “no idea” who, if anyone, prosecutors might be planning to charge in connection with the case.

Before last week’s indictment, Medunjanin already faced charges of conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and receiving military training from al-Qaeda, while Ahmedzay had been charged only with lying about his trip to Pakistan, where prosecutors allege that in 2008 the three men were recruited by al-Qaeda and taken to a training camp in Waziristan to receive military training. Zazi admitted in his guilty plea that he was recruited and received training in such a manner.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder responded to the indictment of Medunjanin and Ahmedzay in a statement last Thursday.

“The facts alleged in this indictment shed further light on the scope of this attempted attack and underscore the importance of using every tool we have available to both disrupt plots against our nation and hold suspected terrorists accountable for their actions,” Holder said. “This attack would have been deadly.”

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

Updated 5:48 pm, October 10, 2011
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