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New York Bombing Plot 'Mastermind' Testifies Against Friend

Najibullah Zazi, the admitted mastermind of a foiled plot to bomb New York City subways (Sept 2009 file photo)

A Bosnian-born immigrant in New York accused on nine terrorism counts heard a second friend testify that he was a willing participant in a suicide bombing plot in New York City.

According to Najibullah Zazi, the confessed mastermind of the foiled 2009 subway bomb plot, accused terrorist Adis Medunjanin “was a role model to us,” because he was most knowledgeable in Islam. Zazi, who earlier pleaded guilty, is one of two former friends testifying in the federal trial of Medunjanin, 27.

The Bosnian-born Medunjanin met Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, whose immigrant families were Afghan, when they all attended the same high school in New York.

According to Zazi and Ahmedzay, who also pleaded guilty, the trio became close friends after high school, bonding over their dedication to Islam - and to the Internet lectures of radical Imams. As they grew angry at the American presence in Afghanistan, they decided to go there to fight to the death - to“perform jihad,” as Zazi testified.

Zazi, who operated a food cart in New York, said he used more than 10 different credit cards to buy cameras, computers, jewelry and airline tickets to Pakistan in 2008. There the three were introduced to men who took them to an al Qaida training camp in northwestern Pakistan - and told them their mission was to become suicide bombers in the U.S.

When they returned from Pakistan, Zazi began fabricating bombs to be detonated in New York subway stations in September 2009.

Karen Greenberg, director of the National Security Center at Fordham Law School, said the case shows the need for counter-terrorism strategies focused on education to bring immigrant youths fully into American society.

“To pay tremendous attention to integration - tremendous attention," stressed Greenberg. "These are kids who are born in one country - and it doesn’t matter what country it is, it could be in the Middle East, it could be in Europe or Eastern Europe. Something happens that interferes with their sense of identity. And what we’re seeing in this case is a sense of identity, of national identity, that’s interrupted.”

Adis Medunjanin, formerly a doorman at a Manhattan apartment building, has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, says his client intended only to fight in Afghanistan and was not party to any bomb plot in the U.S.

Zazi and Ahmedzay are testifying in the hopes of receiving lighter sentences for their crimes. The prosecution plans also to put on the stand two other confessed terrorists, including Saajid Muhammad Badat, a Briton convicted of plotting to use a shoe bomb to blow up an airliner.