The Justice Department unsealed criminal charges earlier this month against three men for plotting to attack New York City in 2016.
The plotters were arrested at different times in 2016 and 2017, in different parts of the world.
Since this plot occurred in the past and the first plotter was arrested in May of last year, it will be inserted into The Heritage Foundation timeline as the 87th Islamist terror plot against the U.S. since 9/11. This brings the total number of such plots to 98 since.
The Department of Justice reports that Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, a 19-year-old Canadian citizen, and Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen residing in Pakistan, communicated with an undercover FBI agent in the spring of 2016 via a cellphone messaging application.
The two men expressed their allegiance to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and were plotting terror attacks against New York City during Ramadan, which fell between June 5 and July 5 in 2016.
They considered multiple potential targets around New York City, with special interest in exploding a suicide bomb on the subway, a car bomb at Times Square, and attacking concerts with firearms.
While in Pakistan, Haroon met with an explosives expert to learn how to construct bombs. Meanwhile in Canada, El Bahnasawy was purchasing a variety of bomb-making tools and materials, including 40 lbs of hydrogen peroxide, batteries, thermometers, and electrical wiring.
Russell Salic, a 37-year-old Philippine citizen, offered to help fund the attack and sent $423 for this purpose to the undercover agent. He promised to send more money for ISIS operations in the future.
El Bahnasawy planned to meet the undercover agent and Haroon in late May in a rural area outside New York. There, he planned to build the explosives and practice with firearms if possible.
El Bahnasawy entered the U.S. on May 21 to prepare for the attack. He was arrested by the FBI later that night in Cranford, New Jersey. Haroon would be arrested in September of 2016, and Salic in April 2017.
Since then, El Bahnasawy pled guilty to seven terrorism charges and faces life in prison. Haroon and Salic are currently being processed for extradition from Pakistan and the Philippines. They also face life in prison.
This foiled plot brings the total number of terror plots and attacks against the U.S. in 2016 to 14, making 2016 the second-most active year for Islamist terrorism after 2015.
It also represents the 13th plot that did not involve a significant homegrown element. Instead, it was carried out by American and foreign terrorists abroad. It also represents the 28th plot or attack that was either inspired by ISIS or had links to ISIS.
Congress and the Trump administration should make sure the government has the intelligence tools it needs to find and stop terrorists or other bad actors who would harm the United States or her interests. This includes renewing programs like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s Section 702, which is up for reauthorization by the end of this year.
Strengthening such tools will ensure that America remain vigilant amid the continuing threat of terrorism.
David Inserra specializes in cyber and homeland security policy, including protection of critical infrastructure, as policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.