Three men have been arrested in three different countries after they allegedly plotted to "create the next 9/11," federal prosecutors revealed today after unsealing a case first brought more than a year ago.
The alleged plot was to have been carried out in the summer of 2016. Court records said the planned attacks included detonating bombs in Times Square and in the New York City subway system, and shooting civilians at concert venues. The alleged plot was described as more aspirational than operational.
According to court documents, Abdulrahman el Bahnasawy, a 19-year-old Canadian citizen, allegedly purchased bomb-making materials to use in attacks in New York City. He was arrested in May 2016 in New Jersey, where he had rented a cabin within driving distance of New York City, according to court documents.
El Bahnasawy had allegedly traveled to New Jersey from Canada, he allegedly purchased bomb-making materials -- including 40 pounds of hydrogen peroxide -- that he shipped to an undercover FBI agent to whom he allegedly expressed an intention of carrying out Paris- and Brussels-like terror attacks in New York City, court documents state.
El Bahnasawy was allegedly quoted as telling the undercover FBI agent he aspired to "create the next 9/11" and expressed desire to "shoot up concerts [because] they kill a lot of people," but no specific venues were mentioned, according to court documents.
"We just walk in with guns in our hands. That's how the Paris guys did it," el Bahnasawy allegedly said when describing the plan, court documents state, referencing the November 2015 attacks in Paris, which included an attack at a concert at the Bataclan theater.
Two alleged accomplices, Tahla Haroon, 19-year-old U.S. citizen living in Pakistan, and Russell Salic, a 37-year-old Philippine citizen, were arrested as well, in September 2016 and April of this year, respectively, according to court documents.
Haroon was in Pakistan and allegedly wanted to fly into New York to help with the attack, court documents state. The pair allegedly boasted about having "a good plan for subways" and marked up an MTA subway map (see image below). They also allegedly discussed with undercover FBI agents plans to detonate a car in Times Square.
"We need a really strong bomb," El Bahnasawy was quoted as saying, according to court documents.
El Bahnasawy has pleaded guilty to the charges against him and is awiting sentencing in December. Haroon and Salic were arrested in foreign countries and have not yet been extradited to the U.S., according to court documents.
There is no connection between today's announcement and a noncredible threat to New York the FBI warned of earlier today.
The FBI had warned law enforcement partners of a potential threat to New York City's Times Square. According to a situational information report issued by the FBI and obtained by ABC News, an Instagram user on Wednesday afternoon posted, "I'm a Syrian refugee and I'm going to do something big in New York on Friday." The user also wrote, "I'm going to make the Las Vegas attack look small on Friday at Times Square."
However, the FBI and the New York City Police Department do not believe the threat is credible after the FBI was able to trace the IP addresses associated with the Instagram posts to South Africa.
"The NYPD is aware of this online threat," police said in a statement Friday. "It is very common to receive these types of postings in the aftermath of significant events throughout the world. There is no reason to believe this threat has any particular credibility. We have significant regular security resources in Times Square and continuously monitor the threat levels in this area."