Men charged for 'Isis-inspired plot' targeting New York concerts, landmarks and crowded trains

Shehab Khan, Emily Shugerman
Members of the New York City Police Counterterrorism force stand guard in Times Square: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Three men have been charged with plotting Isis-inspired attacks on concerts, landmarks, and the subway system in New York City.

All three men have been arrested and one has plead guilty, according to the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office announced the charges on Friday.

The men planned to detonate bombs in Times Square, a popular tourist destination, and on the subway, according to the DA. They were also said to ahve planned to shoot civilians at a number of concerts.

The alleged plans were thwarted by an undercover FBI agent claiming to be an Isis supporter, the DA said. One man was arrested in New Jersey, while the two others were arrested in Pakistan and the Philippines – foreign countries from which they allegedly helped plan the attacks.

Abdulrahman el Bahnasawy, a 19-year-old Canadian citizen, allegedly purchased bomb-making materials and secured a cabin within driving distance of New York in which to assemble them. Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old living in Pakistan, is said to have made plans to travel to New York to help him. The third defendant, 37-year-old Russel Salic of Pakistan, is accused of wiring money to fund the operation.

Mr el Bahnasawy plead guilty to a seven-count charge last October. Mr Haroon faces five charges, and Mr Salic faces seven - they have not yet answered the charges. All three men have been charged with multiple crimes carrying a life sentence.

The US hopes to extradite Mr Salic and Mr Haroon from their home countries to face a US court.

The men sent electronic messages to the undercover agent expressing their desire to carry out Paris- and Brussels-like terrorist attacks in New York City, the DA's office said. Mr el Bahnasawy allegedly texted the agent that he hoped to “create the next 9/11".

Mr Haroon allegedly claimed to have been in contact with Isis associates within the Khorasan Province, and to have met explosives experts to determine the exact materials needed for the bomb. The men claimed Mr Salic was a "trusted Isis supporte" who had funded previous attacks, according to the DA.

Mr el Bahnasawy was arrested in March 2016, when he travelled from Canada to the US to prepare for the attacks, the DA's office said. Mr Haroon and Mr Salic were subsequently arrested in their home countries.

Although the plans were discovered more than a year ago, the arrests were not revealed until 6 October, when authorities were confident that no one else was involved.

The news came days after a man with no link to any terror group opened fire on a concert crowd in Las Vegas, killing 58 people. A little over a year before, an Isis-inspired bomber detonated a pressure cooker bomb on the New York subway. No one was killed.

Although the men’s plots were not put into motion, former FBI Supervisor JJ Klaver told NBC News that the men would not have been arrested unless there was some substance to their plans.

"They are going to look at the extent of the plans being made and the extent that these guys are taking actions to further those plans," Mr Klaver said.

Attorney information for the three men was not immediately available.