The Justice Department today charged several suspects, including one of the world's most-wanted terror suspects and a man arrested in Britain, in connection with last year's thwarted New York City subway bombing -- a plot authorities now believe may have stretched from New York to London to Pakistan, law enforcement officials said.
Adnan Shukrijumah, who has eluded the FBI for years and remains at large, was named in an indictment in Brooklyn federal court, WNBC's Jonathan Dienst reports.
Shukrijumah, one of the al-Qaida leaders in charge of plotting attacks worldwide, was directly involved in recruiting and plotting the New York attack, prosecutors said
Prosecutors allege Shukrijuma met in Pakistan with Najibullah Zazi, who has pleaded guilty to planning to bomb the subways around the Sept. 11th terror attack anniversary last year. Shukrajuma also met with two others accused in the plot, Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay, who had also pleaded guilty to terror related charges. Medunjanin, who maintains his innocence, awaits trial and prosecutors added new terror charges against him today.
"He has said as vehmently as he can that he is not guilty," said Medunjanin's atttorney, Robert Gottleib.
Shukrijuma is one several suspects charged by the Justice Department in connection with the failed plot to strike subways around the Sept. 11th anniversary. Shukrijumah is not in custody at this time and is believed to be along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, officials said.
After the 9/11 attacks, Shukrijumah, 34, was seen as one of al-Qaida's best chances to attack inside the U.S. or Europe, captured terrorist Abu Zubaydah told U.S. authorities
Two of the men indicted Wednesday -- Abid Naseer and Tariq Ur Rehman -- were linked to a previously undisclosed companion plot in England.
"The charges announced today illustrate the coordinated and persistent attempts by our adversaries to harm American citizens," said the acting director of the FBI in New York, George Venizelos.
Abid Naseer was arrested in Britain today. Rehman is not yet in custody, officials said.
British security officials said officers from the Metropolitan Police Service's Extradition Unit and the North East Counter Terrorism Unit took the 24-year-old Naseer, who won the right to stay in Britain earlier this year, into custody this afternoon in the north east of England pursuant to a provisional arrest warrant issued today at the behest of the U.S. government.
U.S. officials are seeking to extradite Naseer to stand trial on charges he provided material support to a foreign terrorist organization, conspired to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and conspired to use a destructive device. Naseer is due in City of Westminster Magistrates Court later Wednesday, officials said.
Naseer was arrested in April last year as part of a massive counter-terrorism operation in Liverpool and Manchester.
The security services believed he and others were planning a "mass casualty" attack within days of their arrest.
Naseer was accused of being the ringleader and sending coded emails to an "al Qaida operative" in Pakistan that were intercepted.
The raids were brought forward after a blunder by former Met Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, who accidentally showed secret documents outside Downing Street.
All 12 suspects were released without charge with 11 of the men - all Pakistani nationals - transferred into the custody of the UK Border Agency. The Government attempted to deport Naseer and a second man, Ahmed Faraz Khan, 26, to Pakistan, but a judge blocked it on the grounds they could be tortured.
Naseer was described in court as an al Qaida operative who "posed and still poses" a significant security threat to Britain. A suspected al Qaeda operative in Pakistan known only as 'Ahmad' is also charged with helping Zazi. He too is not in custody. Another suspect is not identified.
One law enforcement official told NBCNewYork Najibullah Zazi and his co-conspirators trained in Pakistan and met with other extremists who discussed carrying out separate attacks in Pakistan and Britain in addition to the New York subway bomb plot.
Investigators believe Shukrijumah met with one of the would-be suicide bombers in a plot that Attorney General Eric Holder called one of the most dangerous since the 9/11 terror attacks.
Court papers unsealed today show Zazi entered into a formal cooperation agreement with the government back in February. The 10 page filing says in exchange for full and complete cooperation - prosecutors would consider filing a letter seeking a somewhat lighter sentence for him.
Shukrijumah's involvement in the subway plot suggests the attack was important to al-Qaida's senior leadership. Shukrijumah is among the top candidates to be al-Qaida's next head of external operations, the man in charge of planning attacks worldwide. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly acknowledged Shukrajuma's rank within the terrorist group, but declined to discuss the expected criminal charges.
The U.S. citizens were arrested in September 2009 before, prosecutors said, they could carry out a trio of suicide bombings in Manhattan. Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay have pleaded guilty and admitted planning to detonate homemade bombs on the subway during rush hour. A third man, Adis Medunjanin, awaits trial.
Counterterrorism officials believe Ahmedzay, and perhaps the other two men, met Shukrijumah at a terror camp in Pakistan.
In 2004, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft called Shukrijumah a "clear and present danger" to the United States. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
Jonathan Dienst WNBC
WNBC Jonathan DIenst