Canadian, Filipino, and American charged for New York City terror plot

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  • Three persons are facing terrorism charges in connection with an alleged plan to stage attacks in New York City.

    The accused are a Canadian, a Filipino, and an American.

    Canadian Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, 19 years old, of Mississauga, Ontario has pleaded guilty about the plot to target landmarks in New York City more than a year ago, including Times Square and the city’s subway system.

    The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said the Canadian has been in custody since the FBI arrested him in New Jersey in May 2016.

    The arrests were first announced on October 6 following a court’s unsealing of federal terrorism charges against the three men.

    The other two accused were identified as Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen living in Pakistan, and Russell Salic, 37, from the Philippines.

    Salic is reportedly a Filipino doctor.

    Salic was arrested months ago, according to Philippine Chief State Prosecutor Ricardo Paras.

    The Philippine prosecutor also said that a Manila court is weighing a U.S. government request that Salic be extradited to face terrorism financing complaints.

    U.S. authorities alleged that the three men communicated through Internet messaging applications.

    They allegedly plotted to carry out bombing and shootings in heavily populated areas of New York City during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in 2016.

    They also allege that while in Canada, El Bahnasawy purchased bomb-making materials and helped secure a cabin within driving distance of New York City to use for building the explosive devices and staging the attacks.

    El Bahnasawy and Haroon began communicating with an undercover FBI agent posing as an ISIL supporter and declared their allegiance to the terror group.

    The RCMP issued a statement saying it collaborated with the FBI in the investigation that led to El Bahnasawy’s arrest.

    “This investigation is a good example of how law enforcement must continually work together to rapidly to gather evidence, irrespective of where that evidence may be found, to interdict those who would commit terrorist atrocities,” it says.

    The charges against El Bahnasawy include conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, both which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

    El Bahnasawy is scheduled to be sentenced on December 12, 2017.

    American justice officials said extradition proceedings are ongoing in Pakistan and the Philippines to bring the other two suspects to the U.S. to face the charges.

    Even if a Manila court approves the U.S. extradition request, the Department of Justice in Manila would have to decide whether to let Salic face criminal complaints in the Philippines first or be allowed to be flown to the U.S. to answer the terrorism allegations there.

    “The U.S. can also request for a temporary surrender of Salic to its custody, but it’s in our options to require him to face criminal complaints here first,” Paras said.

    Salic, 37, is accused of sending money to help fund the planned attacks, according to U.S. court documents, which have been made public. He allegedly told an undercover FBI agent posing as an Islamic extremist that his ultimate goal was to join the Islamic State group in Syria but that “it would be a great pleasure if we can slaughter” people in New York, the documents said.

    Filipino state prosecutors say Salic was taken into custody around April of this year for alleged involvement in the abduction of six sawmill workers, two of whom were later beheaded, in the southern Philippine town of Butig in Lanao del Sur province in 2016.

    The kidnappings and beheadings have been blamed on the so-called Maute group, a band of militants aligned with the Islamic State group that was largely unknown until they led a siege of southern Marawi city in May.

    Nearly 1,000 people, including 771 militants, have been killed in the Marawi violence, which the military says will be contained soon following months of airstrikes and ground assaults.

    The American suspect, Talha Haroon, was arrested in Pakistan last year.

    Haroon’s extradition was halted in March by a Pakistan court.

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