Imam Involved in NYC Plot Pleads Guilty; Ordered to Leave Country

An Afghanistan-born imam linked to the suspects in an aborted suicide bomb plot against New York City subway stations will not serve jail time, but was ordered to leave the country within 90 days. On Thursday Ahmad Afzali pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the investigation into the NYC subway bomb plot.

Afzali was sentenced to time served, four days, although he faced up to six months after pleading guilty.

Speaking emotionally to the court, he said, ”Honest to God, it was never my intention to help those idiots for what they do in the name of Islam,” he said, referring to the terrorist suspects.

The imam said he had wanted to help authorities in the investigation of the threat but lied under grilling by the FBI about his phone conversations with admitted al-Qaeda associate Najibullah Zazi. Afzali lied when he said he never told Zazi that he was under surveillance in New York.

He said he is going to spend as much time as possible with his family before leaving. He does not expect to return to Afghanistan, where he left as a child with his family, but he is not sure where he will go. If Afzali does not leave the country within 90 days, he will be deported to Afghanistan.

The judge noted he is not allowed to return without special permission from the U.S. government.

Authorities sought help last fall from the imam, a previously reliable police source, as they scrambled to thwart the plot by Zazi, a Colorado airport van driver who is the principal suspect in the case.

Two other men suspected of direct roles in the plot, Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay, have pleaded not guilty to charges they sought to join Zazi in what prosecutors described as three coordinated suicide bombing attacks on Manhattan subway lines.The attacks were planned to be around the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Prosecutors say the attacks were modeled after the July 2005 bombings on the London transit system, in which four suicide bombers killed 52 people and themselves in an attack on three subway trains and a bus in London.

Police apprehended  Zazi’s car as it entered New York in September.

Another suspect was recently arrested in Pakistan.

See NPR.

India to Obtain Armed Drones

India is reportedly preparing to have “killer” unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in response to possible threats from Pakistan and China. Until now India has denied the use of armed UAVs, but they did use UAVs that can detect incoming missile attacks or border incursions.

The importance of obtaining armed UAVs grew enormously after the recent attack on paramilitary forces in Chhattisgarh that killed 75 security personnel. Sources reveal that the Indian Air Force (IAF) has been in contact with Israeli arms suppliers in New Delhi recently. The IAF is looking to operate Israeli Harop armed UAVs from 2011 onwards, and other units of the armed forces will follow.

India might also try to use the American UAVs given the deepening defense relations between the two countries. Israeli UAVs destruct at targets, while American UAVs may return to the base after the mission. However, Washington has to take into account the Pakistani response, especially as Pakistan receives military support from the United States. Israeli, on the other hand, has no similar political issues in the region.

Find out more at Asia Times.

Diplomat’s Smoking Causes Airplane Bomb Scare

A Qatari diplomat sparked a bomb scare after surreptitiously smoking in an airplane bathroom on a flight from Washington National Airport to Denver on Wednesday. Mohammed Al-Madadi was sitting in first class when a flight attendant smelled smoke in the forward bathroom. When Al-Madadi was confronted by federal air marshals, he denied smoking and made a sarcastic reference to trying to set his shoes on fire. Federal air marshals questioned him, learned that he had in fact been illegally smoking and then sat with him for the rest of the flight, which was without incident.

The marshals activated a national alert system for all planes in flight through the pilot. Fighter jets were scrambled, and President Obama was warned about a possible terrorist threat.

Al-Madadi was arrested once the plane landed in Denver, but was later released. In Denver, the plane was isolated and passengers were interviewed and inconvenienced by hours of delayed release. Their delay did not affect other flights. Due to diplomatic immunity from U.S. prosecution, he will not be criminally charged. Al-Madadi was on his way to visit Ali Al-Marri, a convicted Qatari Al-Qaeda sleeper agent serving an eight year sentence. Alison Bradley, the embassy spokeswoman, said such consular visits with Al-Marri have occurred monthly since the middle of last year.

A State Department official said Al-Madadi will be sent back to Qatar.

See Washington Post for more.

Militia members charged in police murder plot

The Justice Department indicted a group of self described Christian militants who were allegedly plotting to kill law enforcement officers in hopes of inciting an antigovernment uprising.

The indictment centers on a Michigan couple, David B. Stone Sr. and his wife, Tina, who led a group of nine people arrested. Eight defendants, including the Stones and their two sons, were arrested over the weekend in raids in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Another group later surrendered to police.

The court filing said the group, which called itself the Hutaree, planned to kill an unidentified law enforcement officer and use improvised explosive devices (IED) to bomb the funeral route of the officer. The IEDs were based on designs used by insurgents against American troops in Iraq.

A grand jury had secretly returned the indictments against the nine last Tuesday. The indictment says they stockpiled guns, ammunition and explosives. According to the group’s Web site, it is training to do battle with the Antichrist. They view law enforcement as an agent of the federal government, which they perceive as the enemy.

All nine suspects face charges of sedition, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. Stone and one of his sons also face charges of teaching the use of explosive materials.

A federal judge is expected to decide whether the suspected members of the militia will stay in jail until trial.

See more at NPR and the Washington Post.

Man Responsible for Newark Airport Security Breach Pleads Guilty

On January 3, Haisong Jiang passed under a rope and entered the restricted boarding area at the Newark Liberty International airport to say goodbye to his girlfriend. She was leaving for California after visiting him in New Jersey.

His action prompted a security breach and led to worldwide flight delays. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge Tuesday and apologized publicly for the first time. Jiang is graduate student at Rutgers University from China.

He said, “I want to deeply apologize to those [affected] for my breach. I just wanted to spend more time with my girlfriend. I made a big mistake, and I also learned a big lesson.” He addressed his apology to airport personnel, Transportation Security Administration officials and passengers affected by the delays.

The breach led TSA to shut down one of Newark’s three terminals for six hours, stranding thousands of passengers and contributing to long delays. About 200 flights worldwide were delayed or canceled because of the security breach. Airlines estimate they lost millions of dollars because the terminal was emptied and the passengers were rescreened.

As part of a plea agreement for the defiant trespassing charge, Jiang will pay a $500 fine, court costs, and perform 100 hours of community service.

His attorney said the misdemeanor charge would not affect Jiang’s immigration status, and he would remain at Rutgers on a student visa.

Jiang was arrested Jan. 8 after authorities identified him from the surveillance video that showed a man stepping under a security rope and entering a restricted area of the airport.

See NYTimes.