- Abid Naseer was convicted in March of multiple terror offenses
- Terror plot also included planned assault on New York subway
A Pakistani al-Qaeda operative was sentenced to 40 years in a U.S. prison over his role in a 2009 plot to bomb a mall in the U.K., as well as the New York City subway and a Copenhagen newspaper.
Abid Naseer, 29, was convicted by a jury in Brooklyn, New York, in March. Prosecutors said Naseer was within days of carrying out the attack on a shopping center in Manchester, England. Seven other men were charged in the scheme, including three who planned the assault on New York City.
“This al-Qaeda plot was intended by the group’s leaders and Naseer to send a message to the United States and its allies,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said Tuesday in a statement. “Today’s sentence sends an even more powerful message in response: terrorists who target the U.S. and its allies will be held accountable for their violent crimes.”
U.S. prosecutors extradited Naseer from the U.K. after the Crown Prosecution Service declined to pursue a case against him in Britain, citing a lack of evidence.
Naseer planned to bomb the mall on Easter weekend, when it would have been packed with holiday shoppers, Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Mole, of Greater Manchester Police, said in a statement about the sentencing.
The sentence "is a fitting punishment for a man who came so close to carrying out what would have been one of the most horrific terrorist acts seen in the U.K. since the 7/7 bombings," Mole said, referring to the coordinated attack on London’s public transportation system on July 7, 2005, which killed more than 50 people.
Naseer "exploited" the U.K.’s educational visa system to enter the country in 2006 in preparation for the assaults, the U.S. said. Jurors heard from British intelligence officers who testified in disguise to protect their identities, and saw documents taken from Osama bin Laden’s compound during a 2011 U.S. raid in which the former al-Qaeda leader was killed.
The sentencing comes less than two weeks after 130 people were killed in a series of coordinated attacks in Paris claimed by Islamic State. A week later, al-Qaeda carried out an attack on a hotel in Bamako, Mali, killing at least 19 people.
The case is U.S. v. Medunjanin, 1:10-cr-00019, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).