CRANFORD, NJ — A 19-year-old Canadian man was arrested by federal authorities in Cranford last year as part of an investigation that foiled a three-man plot to carry out terrorist attacks in New York, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office revealed after documents in the case were unsealed recently.
The U.S. Department of Justice detailed the case in an Oct. 6 press release, including terrorism charges against three men, who were allegedly plotting their attacks in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS.
The defendants include Canadian Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, 19; Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen residing in Pakistan; and Russell Salic, a 37-year-old Filipino man.
The FBI and New York police arrested El Bahnasawy on May 21, 2016, in Cranford as he traveled from Canada through the Union County suburb to carry out the attacks.
Haroon and Salic “have been arrested in foreign countries by foreign authorities in connection with these charges and it is the hope and expectation of this office and U.S. law enforcement that they will be extradited to the United States to face justice in a United States court,” the release read.
“We (Cranford Police Department) were aware of the FBI’s arrest, but I would not be allowed to comment any further as they were the lead agency in this sensitive investigation,” Cranford police Sgt. Ryan Greco told LocalSource on Oct. 12.
The press release revealed that the three men were charged on seven counts, including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, alongside many others.
According to the release, El Bahnasawy has been in custody since he was arrested by the FBI. He pleaded guilty to terrorism offenses and is now awaiting a Dec. 12 sentencing.
The attacks planned by the three included detonating bombs in Times Square and inside the New York City subway system. They further planned to shoot civilians at specific concert venues.
This case was part of an extensive undercover investigation in which an FBI agent, identified by authorities only as “UC,” convinced the trio that he was an ISIS supporter and was prepared to carry out the attacks with them.
UC gained the three men’s trust through cell phone communication. According to the justice department press release, UC conversed with Salic and Haroon on multiple occasions, during which they conveyed to him that New York City would be a good place to carry out attacks.
The release revealed that Salin, described New York City as “the capital of Kufr,” meaning “sinners,” and stated that “it would be a great pleasure if we can slaughter people in New York City.”
Salic sent UC approximately $423 from the Philippines on May 11, 2016, to help fund the planned New York City attacks. He conveyed to UC while he couldn’t be there, he “would be praying to Allah for the success of the operation and the planned attacks were imminent.”
Haroon told UC nine days later that Times Square was “a perfect spot to hit them,” and suggested that the plan could include a “drive by or we surround the whole street and trap them and kill as many as possible.”
Throughout several communications with UC, Haroon also stated: “I wanna kill … them in thousands” and “we have to make a ocean out of their blood … Leave no one standing.”