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Three men arrested in suspected plot to bomb New York City subway and Times Square

Three men have been charged in an alleged plot to bomb Times Square. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Three men have been charged in an alleged plot to bomb Times Square. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

A Canadian citizen inspired by Islamic State to create “the next 9/11” and two other men plotted to attack Times Square and the New York City subway system with bombs and a shooting rampage during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan last year, according to federal charges unsealed Friday.

Abdulrahman El-Bahnasawy, 19, of Mississauga, Canada, bought bomb-making materials and studied maps of the subway system, but the planned attacks were thwarted by an undercover FBI agent who was posing online as an Islamic State sympathizer, the charges said.

El-Bahnasawy was arrested in May 2016 and has already pleaded guilty. 

Also charged were Talha Haroon, 19, a U.S. citizen living in Pakistan, and Russell Salic, 37, of the Philippines, who allegedly wired $423 to help finance the plot. Both have been arrested and are awaiting extradition to the U.S., authorities said.

According to the charges, El-Bahnasawy and Haroon declared their support for Islamic State and were inspired by deadly terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels.

“We seriously need a car bomb at times square …. look at those crowds of people!” El-Bahnasawy said in one message to the undercover agent, according to court papers. He also expressed a desire to “shoot up concerts cause they kill a lot of people.”

“We just walk in with guns in our hands. That’s how the Paris guys did it,” he wrote, according to the charges. 

He bought bomb-making materials in Canada, including about 40 pounds of hydrogen peroxide, which can be used to make a powerful explosive, along with batteries, Christmas lights and thermometers.

Haroon said that Times Square was “a perfect place to hit them.” He added, “I wanna kill … them in thousands,” the charges state.

But Haroon never made it to the United States, and El-Bahnasawy was arrested as soon as he arrived in New Jersey from Canada.

Salic, who told the undercover agent that he longed to go to Syria and join Islamic State there, actually wired the money into a government account.

There is no sign that the terrorist group participated in the planning. But the charges said Haroon and El-Bahnasawy claimed approval from an Islamic State cell in Pakistan.

The three are charged with multiple terrorism offenses, including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and support of a terrorist organization.

El-Bahnasawy has pleaded guilty to seven charges and will be sentenced on Dec. 12.

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