April 23rd, 2012
11:25 PM ET

Al Qaeda's 2008 plan to hit Long Island Railroad revealed

By CNN Terrorism Analyst Paul Cruickshank

New details emerged in federal court in Brooklyn on Monday of a plan al Qaeda hatched in the summer of 2008 to bomb the Long Island Railroad.

Bryant Neal Vinas, a confessed American al Qaeda operative who joined the terrorist network in Pakistan's tribal areas in March 2008, provided details of a plan for a suicide bomber to detonate explosives aboard a Long Island Railroad train as it entered a tunnel on the commuter line to create maximum devastation.

Vinas was testifying in the trial of Adis Medunjanin, a U.S. citizen of Bosnian descent, who is charged with involvement in an al Qaeda plot to bomb New York's subways in September 2009. U.S. authorities allege the 2009 plot was orchestrated by Saleh al Somali and other senior al Qaeda operatives. Vinas and Medunjanin never met.

Vinas revealed in court that he suggested the idea of attacking the railroad to al Qaeda operatives while he was in one of the group's encampments in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Vinas said his idea was for an al Qaeda operative to leave a suitcase bomb with a timer on a train and then exit at a station before the device exploded.

Vinas also suggested an attack on a Wal-Mart store in which an al Qaeda operative would purchase a television and return it to the store after placing a bomb inside. Vinas testified that such an attack would create a big economic fallout in the United States.

Vinas testified that he drew a map for a senior figure in al Qaeda, Younis al Mauretani, showing all the LIRR train lines. Mauretani decided the best scheme would be to launch a suicide bombing on a train as it entered a tunnel. And he told Vinas that preferably a white operative with Western travel documents would be tasked to carry out the attack.

Vinas claimed that he only suggested the plot to al Qaeda, and was not himself going to return to the United States to carry it out. He was later arrested in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. Vinas said no final decision was made about the LIRR plot. The idea to bomb a Wal-Mart store was ultimately rejected by al Qaeda.

Al Mauretani was then one of al Qaeda's rising stars. According to a senior U.S. counterterrorism official, Mauretani was offered the opportunity to take charge of al Qaeda's external operations the previous year but had turned down the position. Mauretani then collaborated closely with the Libyan operative Atiyah abd al Rahham, who by the late 2000s had emerged as day-to-day commander of global operations for the terrorist network.

Mauretani was arrested by Pakistani authorities in Quetta in August 2011.

In several hours of testimony, Vinas also revealed new details of his recruitment by al Qaeda and his interactions with al Qaeda commanders in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

He described how, through contacts he made in Lahore, he was able to join a militant outfit conducting border raids against against U.S. and Afghan troops in Afghanistan less than two weeks after flying in to Pakistan. He testified the group was commanded by a Pakistani militant called Shaah Saab whose fighters were based in Peshawar and in the Mohmand Tribal Agency. Saab's group reportedly had ties to the Pakistani militant group Lashkar e Taiba.

Vinas left the group in December 2007 after becoming frustrated that he was not receiving the training he wanted. He also said he found out that the group had links to the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence services. "I didn't want to do ISI's dirty work," Vinas testified.

Saab was reportedly executed the next year after being captured in a confrontation with a rival militant group.

After many frustrating attempts, Vinas described finally connecting with al Qaeda in the tribal areas of Pakistan. He described attending three training courses inside mud huts in the mountains and meeting with some of the top leaders of the terrorist group, including the Egyptian Mustafa abu al Yazid, the Libyans Atiyah abd al Rahman and Abu Yayha al Libi, and Saleh al Somali, an East African operative who Vinas testified was the "senior emir for the international operations program."

During the summer of 2008, Vinas described joining an al Qaeda expedition to fire rockets on a U.S. base in Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. Vinas said he was tasked with climbing a nearby hill to watch out for Pakistani helicopters as the group fired four rockets at the American base. The rockets all missed their target.

Vinas testified he began to resent al Somali, after the al Qaeda commander blocked him from traveling to Peshawar to wire money to his "girlfriend" in Cuba. Vinas had met her several years previously on a trip to the Caribbean island. Vinas testified that he appealed to Yazid, who overruled al Somali, and gave him permission to travel to Peshawar.

Vinas pleaded guilty in January 2009 to helping al Qaeda plan a bomb attack on the Long Island Railroad and has yet to be sentenced.

soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Lorenzo Rorick

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    April 14, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Reply
  2. Rock Maker

    another terror link to dreaded Pakistani ISI. When will our stupid politicians ever learn ?

    April 24, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Reply
    • Alexandra

      meanwhile, on the home front, the newly elected Democrats will prboably soon be trying to handcuff intelligence and law enforcement officials (not literally ... I don't think) and the NY Times is dilligently exposing secret methods our gov't is using to try to keep ordinary Americans safe. yeah, I feel safe.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:51 am | Reply
  3. yannaes

    I guess that many liberals might have a problem as to how the information was obtained.

    April 24, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Reply
    • Alessio

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      May 21, 2012 at 7:11 am | Reply
  4. Lynn

    The Long Island Railroad huh? Surprise surprise. Although most of us LIRR commuters have definitely had this horrendous thought at least once, it's the kind of thing you really don't verbalize. Like we were afraid if we verbalized it aloud we'd somehow give Al Queda the idea. Really? God help us.

    April 24, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Reply
  5. What

    The guy was arrested by Pakistan and handed over to US. So are the other guys. Use your brains its logical they want to expand the war to Pakistan simple as that. If ISI was complicit this guy would never have been handed over to the US.

    April 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Reply
  6. Snoot

    Hooray for torture!

    April 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Reply
  7. beezy

    give peace a chance? really? what do you think the US has been doing? we could wipe pakistan and afghanistan off the map if we wanted to. to not take the war to them they will bring it here on our streets as you can see they are still trying to do. all they want to do is kill Americans no matter what we say or do.

    April 24, 2012 at 10:49 am | Reply
  8. rk

    the origin of all terror is pakistan....unless that is turned to heap of glass...alqueda will continue to exist...

    April 24, 2012 at 10:15 am | Reply
    • Pudendal cleft

      Don't expect any help from big, brave India.

      April 24, 2012 at 11:55 am | Reply
  9. Allison

    Who wrote this fearmongering garbage? Muslims are human beings, just like you and I, and last time I checked there was freedom of religion in America. Tolerance is a virtue. One bad apple does not make them all bad. this is just painting a boogie man in every corner to justify spending on the vast military industrial complex. GIVE PEACE A CHANCE!

    April 24, 2012 at 10:10 am | Reply
    • rick

      this was testimony, not "written", spoken! you are preaching to the wrong audience. we can read english. you need to post your crap in your PLO publication.

      April 24, 2012 at 10:54 am | Reply
    • rightospeak

      It is fearmongering garbage , Allison, I agree. Col. Craig Roberts in his book "The Medusa File " figured out that they will come out with it to fearmonger. Be careful ,Allison , if you write too much truth you will be banned from commenting on articles.

      April 24, 2012 at 11:14 am | Reply
      • rick

        banned from reuters still? maybe its because your comments are so dumb! You and alison refer to "fear mongering" when the material n the article is testimony produced in a trial. A trial! not a book, not an article, but a trial! you spend way too much time reading and not enough time comprehending what you read.

        April 24, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
      • Thor

        Lick a dickkk Rick, you fukkking sheep.

        Bahhhhhh, bahhhhh

        Your moms calling Rick....

        April 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Reality Check

      muslims are far from civilized humans. All they care to do it take over the world to male it an islamic hell on earth. If we could just isolate them all to the arabic peninsula and keep them locked there. The world would be a much better place.

      April 24, 2012 at 11:58 am | Reply
    • Thor

      I know it's a foreign concept, but bombing trains isn't a God given right unless you're Al Qaeda

      April 24, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Reply
    • The last Jedi

      The only good muslims are ones that stay in the middle east!

      April 24, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Reply
      • Priya

        I think he did great and really weantd his autograph, but couldn't. i think he deserves to be the hero of the year 2009. the video was very touching,and that made me want to help the charities more. His presentation made me want to unleash my hero in my heart!

        May 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • keo saengsay

      where are they the good muslims where are they ? Farakarn get the shut up where is the F,,,g you're to defence America leave alone Christianes. Show me one GOOD MUSLIM and say out LOUD to that the good muslims against terrorist who want to distroying America, let said all Christians arm youself to get rid off the muslims .Can we start it now before it's too late to protect America.

      April 25, 2012 at 5:25 am | Reply
  10. Hahahahahaha

    Who's Al Kinda? Hahahahahaha

    April 24, 2012 at 9:14 am | Reply
  11. Giant


    Which of you are afraid of the big bad terrorists???

    Are you scared enough to give up your freedom??

    Rise up. Show those who would sell us fear, what terror really means.

    April 23, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Reply
    • StardustNectar

      omg im so scared too! 😉 Its amazingly surprising, how low humans went... I was bashing Illuminati for 911 killings, but after trying to wake people up, with a little success, I'm just enjoying the show now and choosing my next retreat, because USA, Europe ego based, don't give a damn society's, will be changed by force... It will be done using ignorance of fat gaming, reality tv generation... I think its awful, that most people today care more about Hollywood, than quality of food... I no longer feel sorry for the ignorance... Sleepy little sheep's will wake up after Hunger games will be reality and cry like a baby's and repeat the learning cycle again, to ascend their souls up... Good luck to all... Wake up now!!!

      April 24, 2012 at 3:53 am | Reply
      • TheRooster

        Wow I think I'm actually brain dead after reading both comments. Trying to wake people up? Illuminati 9/11 killings? You probably should never go near a computer again. This is exactly the holy grail that al Qaeda wanted; a home-grown operative to try and slip in and wreak havok.

        April 24, 2012 at 9:24 am |
      • rick

        what is in that hookah?

        April 24, 2012 at 10:56 am |
      • rightospeak

        You are on the right track, StadustNectar,. Read Wyndham Lewis' book "Count Your Dead ,They Are Alive " which he wrote in 1937 and is very relevant today-it will open your eyes, as it did mine.

        April 24, 2012 at 11:08 am |
      • nah_1009

        Rightospeak says – it will open your eyes, as it did mine.

        We are not sure about opening your eyes, but we do know it opened your mouth, and quite widely too...

        April 24, 2012 at 9:37 pm |

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