US national convicted of terrorist attack at US base in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: American citizen Muhanad Mahmoud Al-Farekh, who received training in terrorist activities in border areas of Pakistan and was an Al Qaeda member, has been convicted with charges of terrorism attack at a US military base in Afghanistan, the Department of Justice said.

“Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh is an al Qaeda terrorist who conspired to kill Americans overseas. The trial evidence showed that he was involved in a variety of terrorist activity, including a VBIED attack on a U.S. military installation in Afghanistan in 2009,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente said after a New York court convicted him with terrorism charges.

Al Farekh now face life imprisonment. “Today, an American al-Qaeda member was brought to justice in a U.S. courtroom,” said Acting United States Attorney Rohde.

“The jury’s verdict on all nine counts of the indictment established Farekh’s responsibility for a violent attack on members of our armed forces, his efforts to murder Americans and his commitment to one of the world’s most infamous terrorist organizations. The defendant now faces the prospect of life imprisonment for the commission of these serious federal crimes,” he said.

“The defendant in this case faces up to life in prison after being found guilty of conspiring to bomb a government facility, use a weapon of mass destruction, murder U.S. nationals and provide material support to terrorists,” said Commissioner O’Neill.

“While Farekh’s crimes occurred in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the defendant’s co-conspirator trained Najibullah Zazi and others who also intended to attack New York City’s subway system,” he said.

According to court papers, prior to traveling overseas to join al Qaeda, Farekh was a student at the University of Manitoba in Canada.

In 2007, Farekh and two fellow students traveled to Pakistan with the intention of fighting against American forces overseas.

Farekh and his co-conspirators had become radicalized watching video recordings encouraging violent jihad, listened to jihadist lectures, including lectures by now-deceased al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar al-Awlaki.

They traveled to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, an area in the northern part of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan and is home to al Qaeda’s base of operations, where they joined and received training from al Qaeda, federal prosecutors alleged.

One of Farekh’s co-conspirators, Ferid Imam, provided weapons and military-type training at an al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan in September 2008.

Among Imam’s trainees were Najibullah Zazi, Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin, of Queens, New York, who intended to return to New York City to carry out a suicide attack in the subway system.

During the trial, Ahmedzay testified that Imam as his weapons trainer. Zazi and Ahmedzay pleaded guilty pursuant to cooperation agreements and have yet to be sentenced. Medunjanin was convicted after trial and sentenced to life imprisonment. Imam has been indicted for his role in the plot.

The government proved Farekh’s participation in the building of a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) that was used in an attack against Forward Operating Base Chapman (FOB Chapman) on January 19, 2009 in Khost, Afghanistan.

The evidence at trial showed that two vehicles approached the fence line of FOB Chapman. The operator of the first vehicle, a pickup-sized truck, detonated a VBIED at the gate.

The second vehicle, a truck carrying 7,500 pounds of explosives, became stuck in the blast crater. The driver fled without detonating the second, more powerful VBIED, and was shot and killed by local security personnel.

Forensic technicians in Afghanistan recovered 18 fingerprints from the adhesive packing tape wrapped around the undetonated bomb that were matched to the defendant. A hair follicle was also recovered and analysis indicated that the follicle’s mitochondrial DNA was consistent with that of the defendant.