Defendant Tried to Lure American Solders to a Compound in Afghanistan that Was Rigged with Explosives; Also Facilitated the Entry of an American Citizen into Al-Qaeda
Earlier today, Saddiq al-Abbadi, 40, a Yemeni national, pleaded guilty to conspiring to murder U.S. nationals abroad, providing and conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaeda and using a machine gun in furtherance of those crimes.
The guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, Acting U.S. Attorney Kelly T. Currie of the Eastern District of New York and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew G. McCabe of the FBI’s Washington, D.C., Field Office. Today’s guilty plea proceeding took place before U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the Eastern District of New York. At sentencing, al-Abbadi faces a maximum of life imprisonment.
“With the guilty plea entered today, Saddiq al-Abbadi will be held accountable for conspiring to kill Americans overseas and providing material support to al-Qaeda,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “Seeking to identify, thwart and hold accountable those who target U.S. citizens and interests around the world will remain a top priority of the National Security Division.”
“The defendant was a high-level al-Qaeda operative with ties to the terrorist group’s senior leadership in both Pakistan and Yemen,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Currie. “He fought in battles against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, tried to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan by luring them to a compound rigged with explosives, and helped an American citizen gain entry to al-Qaeda. We stand resolute in our commitment to bring to justice those who would try to harm members of our military or who assist al-Qaeda’s efforts to kill Americans at home or abroad.”
“With today’s guilty plea, Al-Abbadi admitted to directly supporting the mission of a designated terrorist organization through planning an operation designed to kill U.S. forces and for engaging in recruitment efforts on behalf of al-Qaeda,” said Assistant Director in Charge McCabe. “This plea is due in no small part to the many FBI Special Agents, intelligence analysts, and linguists from the Washington and New York Field Offices as well as our interagency and international partners who spent countless hours investigating terrorism actors and al-Abbadi’s actions. The FBI will not rest until we find and hold accountable those who provide support to terrorist groups and ensure that they are brought to justice.”
According to court filings, al-Abbadi traveled from his home country of Yemen to Iraq where, from approximately late 2005 through early 2007, he fought alongside al-Qaeda affiliated battalions against U.S. troops stationed in Iraq.
In early 2008, al-Abbadi traveled to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan in order to fight for al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. While in the FATA, al-Abbadi – who had longstanding ties to senior members of al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) – engaged directly with senior al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan, including Sheikh Saeed al-Masri, the then-third ranking member of al-Qaeda.
During the late spring and summer of 2008, Al-Abbadi crossed from Pakistan into Afghanistan for the purpose of fighting and killing members of the U.S. military stationed in Afghanistan. In June 2008, he planned an operation designed to lure U.S. forces to a compound in Ghazni, Afghanistan, that was rigged with explosives set to detonate upon their entry. When U.S. forces arrived at the compound, they found rocket-propelled grenades and artillery rounds littered about. One soldier observed wiring running from the exterior gate to the inside of the compound and recognized the trap. The military evacuated and subsequently leveled the compound.
In addition to fighting against the U.S. military, al-Abbadi used his connections with al-Qaeda’s leadership to help U.S. citizen Bryant Neal Vinas gain entry into al-Qaeda. Vinas had traveled to Pakistan from Long Island, New York, in the hopes of joining al-Qaeda and fighting against U.S. military forces in Afghanistan. As a result of al-Abbadi’s assistance, Vinas was allowed to join al-Qaeda. After participating in al-Qaeda’s military training program, Vinas developed a plan with senior al-Qaeda external operations leadership to conduct an attack on the Long Island Railroad in New York. Vinas was arrested before he could carry out this attack.
Assistant Attorney General Carlin extended his grateful appreciation to the FBI. The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zainab Ahmad, Michael P. Canty and Douglas M. Pravda of the Eastern District of New York, with assistance provided by Trial Attorney Josh Parecki of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and by the Office of International Affairs.