BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) - A federal judge handed a 40-year prison sentence Tuesday to the al-Qaida operative who planned to bomb a UK mall over the Easter holiday.
Back in April 2009, Abid Naseer "came within days of executing" his plot to bomb a crowded shopping center in Manchester, England, according to a statement by the Justice Department.
After his arrest on April 8, 2009, UK authorities seized a large volume of electronic evidence that showed Naseer had downloaded several jihadi nasheeds, or anthems, calling for "death in large numbers."
Prosecutors say the May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden's compound even uncovered a letter to the al-Qaida leader from Saleh al-Somali, written on April 16, 2009, that discussed the arrests of Naseer and his accomplices in the United Kingdom.
Prosecutors say senior leaders of al-Qaida in Pakistan directed Naseer's plot, which also involved coordinated attacks on the New York City subway system and a newspaper office in Copenhagen.
Naseer, a 29-year-old Pakistani national, received a 40-year sentence today after his conviction earlier this year at a federal jury trial in which he represented himself.
Diego Rodriguez, the FBI's assistant director in charge of the New York field office, noted that al-Qaida dispatched Nasser to the U.K. in 2006.
There, he "exploited the educational visa system not to improve his own life, but to take away the lives of many others 'in large numbers,'" Rodriguez said in a statement. "Trained in weapons and explosives, he communicated in code to hide his evil intentions. Found guilty in a court of law, he has been spared the fate of death he wished upon others and will spend considerable time incarcerated in a country he and his co-conspirators failed to take down."
Naseer was one of eight co-conspirators the government charged in connection to the plot. Adis Medunjanin, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay belonged to the cell that targeted New York City.
Al-Qaida recruited that trio in September 2008, according to a statement from the Justice Department.
Adnan El-Shukrijumah and Saleh al-Somali were among the al-Qaida leaders who communicated with Zazi about the plot through a Peshawar, Pakistan-based facilitator for al-Qaida named "Ahmad," the DOJ says.
After Medunjanin, Zazi and Ahmedzay selected the New York City subway system as their target in early September 2009, "Zazi emailed with 'Ahmad' in Pakistan about the proper ingredients for the main charge explosive, which included flour and oil," the DOJ statement continues.
Prosecutors note that "Zazi pleaded guilty to his role in the plot on Feb. 22, 2010; Ahmedzay pleaded guilty on April 23, 2010; and Medunjanin was convicted after trial on May 1, 2012, and was sentenced to life in prison."
"Zazi and Ahmedzay are awaiting sentencing," the DOJ statement continues.
Prosecutors say "Ahmad" had been communicating with Naseer earlier in 2009 as well.
The evidence at trial established that al-Qaida dispatched Naseer and his Pakistani accomplices to the United Kingdom in 2006.
Though the co-conspirators entered the United Kingdom on student visas, they dropped out of the university in which they had enrolled immediately.
While Zazi and his co-conspirators were receiving weapons and explosives training from al-Qaida in Pakistan, Naseer returned briefly to Peshawar around the same time in November 2008.
In the days before Easter 2009, Naseer wrote to "Ahmad" that he was planning "a large 'wedding' for numerous guests during the upcoming Easter weekend."
Zazi likewise testified that "Ahmad" had instructed him to use the same code of "marriage" to refer to the planned attack on the New York City subway.
Just before he drove to New York in early September 2009 to conduct the attack, Zazi emailed "Ahmad" that "the marriage is ready."
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