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Pakistani terror convict gets 40-year jail by US court

New York: A 29-year old Pakistani man was today sentenced to 40 years in prison by a US court for plotting terror attacks with Al-Qaeda that targeted a crowded shopping centre in England and the New York City subway system.

Abid Naseer, who was extradited from the UK to the US, was raised in Peshawar and had said he was a cricket player. He led an al-Qaeda cell that plotted to bomb a shopping centre in Manchester, England, in April 2009, prosecutors said.

Naseer and his accomplices came within days of executing a plot to conduct a bombing at a crowded shopping mall in Manchester, United Kingdom, as directed by senior al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan.

The planned attack, which also targeted the New York City subway system and a newspaper office in Copenhagen, Denmark, had been directed by and coordinated with the senior al-Qaeda leaders, federal prosecutors said.

He was convicted in March 2015 after a three-week jury trial of providing material support to al-Qaeda, conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaeda, and conspiring to use a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence.

“Dispatched by al-Qaeda to the UK in 2006, Abid Naseer exploited the educational visa system not to improve his own life, but to take away the lives of many others ‘in large numbers’. Trained in weapons and explosives, he communicated in code to hide his evil intentions,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Diego Rodriguez said.

During the trial, the government introduced evidence that around September 2008, al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan recruited Adis Medunjanin, Najibullah Zazi, and Zarein Ahmedzay to conduct a suicide bombing attack in New York City.

The evidence at trial established that Naseer and his Pakistani accomplices had been dispatched by al-Qaeda to the UK in 2006 in order to begin preparations for an attack in that country.

He and his co-conspirators entered the UK on student visas but then immediately dropped out of the university in which they had enrolled.

Naseer returned briefly to Peshawar in November 2008, at the same time Zazi and his co-conspirators were receiving weapons and explosives training from al-Qaeda in that region.

After returning to the UK, Naseer sent messages back and forth to the same email account that Ahmad was also using to communicate with the American-based al-Qaeda cell on behalf of Saleh al-Somali, al-Qaeda’s then-head of external operations.

In the messages, the defendant used coded language to refer to different types of explosives.

At the culmination of the plot, in early April 2009, Naseer told Ahmad that he was planning a large “wedding” for numerous guests during the upcoming Easter weekend, and that Ahmad – whom he called “Sohaib”- should be ready.

Naseer and several associates were arrested in the United Kingdom in April 2009.