Canadian Sentenced to 40 Years for Failed 2016 ISIS Plot in New York City

A 20-year-old Canadian man was sentenced to 40 years in prison today for plotting to carry out a terrorist attack in New York City on behalf of ISIS. Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, of Mississagua, Canada, traveled to New York City in May 2016 during Ramadan to conduct bombings and shootings in a highly populated area. He was arrested and the attack was foiled due to an undercover FBI agent, who infiltrated the terrorist plot.

“In the name of ISIS, Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy planned an elaborate attack to wreak havoc and destruction on New York City,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman for the Southern District of New York in a statement. “He planned to detonate bombs in Times Square and the New York City subway system, and to shoot civilians at concert venues. Demonstrating his commitment to carry out the attacks, El Bahnasawy pinpointed bomb locations on a map of the subway system, and acquired an array of bomb-making materials. El Bahnasawy aspired, in his words, to ‘create the next 9/11.’ Thanks to our law enforcement partners in New York, nationally, and internationally, this potentially devastating plot was thwarted.”

“NY Needs to fall. This is a must,” Haroon allegedly wrote in a message to an undercover agent posing as an ISIS sympathizer, according to NBC.

The holy month of Ramadan in 2016 was celebrated from June 6 to July 5 across the Muslim world, but it was also exploited by ISIS, which called for an increased number of attacks. El Bahnasawy, who shipped bomb-making materials to an undercover FBI agent, planned to meet his co-conspirators at a cabin within driving distance of New York City to prepare for the terrorist attack. He was arrested in New Jersey in May 2016 while on a family trip, and his lawyers maintained throughout the trial that he was merely an isolated loner who suffered from bipolar disorder and was not taking his medication. His alleged co-conspirators, 20-year-old Pakistani Talha Haroon and Russell Salic, a 38-year-old citizen of the Philippines, were later arrested by authorities in their home countries, where they remain. Haroon was arrested as he allegedly made plans to travel to the U.S., and Salic allegedly wired money from the Philippines to the U.S. to fund the attack. 

Read: FBI: Ohio al-Qaeda Adherent Planned Fourth of July Attack, Scoped Out Coast Guard Station

El Bahnasawy, who was 18 when he was arrested, also sent New York City Judge Richard Berman a 24-page hand-written letter in April. He pleaded guilty in October 2016, and his case remained sealed until the arrest of his alleged co-conspirators. 

“I sincerely apologize for my behavior and I only ask for a second chance,” El Bahnasawy wrote. “I want to experience life away from drugs and away from war and violence. I want a stable life and I want to stop having extreme turns that keep getting me in trouble, like my turn towards drugs or my turn towards jihad. I gave my family a very hard time in life and I wish I can make it up for them. I miss the times when I went on trips with them, when I wasn’t doing drugs or involved with violence, like the time we went to Europe for vacation before returning to Canada.”  

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Multimedia journalist James Cullum has reported for over a decade to newspapers, magazines and websites in the D.C. metro area. He excels at finding order in chaotic environments, from slave liberations in South Sudan to the halls of the power in Washington, D.C.

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