New Jersey

Would-Be Terrorist in NYC Plot Has History of Mental Health, Drug Issues: Documents

Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy pleaded guilty to terror charges after he was arrested in New Jersey in 2016

What to Know

  • Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy has a history of mental health and drug issues, according to documents unsealed on Monday.
  • He is one of three men arrested in an alleged plot to attack New York City subways, Times Square and area concerts.
  • El Bahnasawy has pleaded guilty and faces life in prison; the other two men also face life in prison, if convicted.

The would-be terrorist who admitted to plotting with two other men to attack concerts, subways and Times Square has a history of mental health issues and drug use, according to documents unsealed on Monday. 

Court records show that Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy also tested positive for the buprenorphine -- a narcotic used to treat pain and opioid addiction -- after he pleaded guilty to terrorism charges including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction for his role in an attack planned for 2016.

The 19-year-old Canadian citizen born in Kuwait was arrested in New Jersey in May of 2016 after using chat apps and buying bomb-making materials in a plot he he told an undercover agent he hoped would become "the next 9/11."

In a plea hearing on Oct. 13, 2016, according to the documents, he admitted in court to plotting with others to "carry out an attack in Times Square, to Support ISIL; specifically we agreed to try to set off a bomb in Times Square." He also admitted to sending materials through the mail and traveling from Canada to the United States as part of the plot. 

Two other men arrested in the plot, Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen based in Pakistan; and Russell Salic, a 37-year-old orthopedic surgeon in the Philippines, were detained in their home countries after FBI and NYPD authorities cuffed El Bahnasawy. Haroon is accused of plotting to come to New York City to carry out the attack with El Bahnasawy; Salic is accused of funding the operation. Both men are in the process of being extradited to the United State to face charges, and it's not clear if they have attorneys.

FBI and NYPD officials told the I-Team the plot was more aspirational than operational. But according to court documents unsealed last week, the three began talking with one another -- and an undercover agent posing as an ISIS sympathizer -- in the spring of 2016.

Over the month of May, they allegedly plotted to carry out a variety of attacks in the city during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan -- that year, from June 6 to July 5 -- or on Memorial Day. They then reached out to Saric, who they called "The Doctor," in May to help finance their plans.

Prosecutors said that Al Bahnasawy and Haroon identified the 7 and 4/5/6 subway lines and Times Square as ideal targets and talked about trapping people inside the Crossroads of the World “and kill as many people as possible.”

Prosecutors added that Al Bahnasawy also communicated with an undercover agent posing as an ISIS sympathizer about wanting to "shoot up concerts cuz they kill lots of people." He also researched upcoming concerts in the city and talked about picking a show in “a concert hall thats far away from cops.”

"We just need guns in our hands," El Bahnasawy said. "That's how the Paris guys did it."

Haroon, meanwhile, told the undercover agent that he saw the subway as a "perfect" target for the attack, and that they should shoot as many train riders as possible before setting off suicide vests.

"When we run out of bullets we let the vests go off," he said.

Prosecutors add that El Bahnasawy bought bomb-making materials while in Canada; Haroon allegedly met with an explosives expert in Pakistan to get more information on how to build bombs.

Around the same time, the two allegedly had been talking with Salic, known as "the doctor," about getting money to carry out the attack. Salic, who also maintained a pro-ISIS social media presence, allegedly wired $423 to the undercover to help pay for the attacks on May 11, 2016, and told the agent he'd send more in the future.

The undercover also sent Salic a picture of hydrogen peroxide El Bahnasawy had bought to carry out the attacks; Salic allegedly responded by saying he might carry out his own attack if he wasn't able to go to Syria to join ISIS. He then allegedly wrote that "(I)t would be a great pleasure if we can slaughter" New Yorkers, according to the complaint.

El Bahnasawy was detained on May 21, 2016, after he traveled to Cranford, New Jersey, to carry out the attacks; he has since pleaded guilty to multiple terrorism offenses. Haroon was arrested in Pakistan; Salic,  was arrested in his home country. All three men were charged with seven terror-related counts, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. 

El Bahnasawy will be sentenced in December and could face life in prison; his attorney declined to comment to the Associated Press on Friday. 

The other two men could also spend the rest of their lives behind bars, if convicted. They're awaiting extradition to the United States, and it's unclear if they have attorneys.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us