WASHINGTON -- An Afghan immigrant has pleaded guilty to planning a suicide bomb attack on the New York City subway system in retaliation for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
Najibullah Zazi also admitted in federal court that he had received his training from Al-Qaeda in the Pakistani border region of Waziristan.
He told the judge that his plan was "to conduct [a] martyrdom operation in Manhattan" and that he was willing to sacrifice himself "to bring attention to what the U.S. military was doing to civilians in Afghanistan."
U.S. attorney general Eric Holder said the 25-year-old Zazi had pled guilty to three criminal charges: "conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction against persons or property in the United States, conspiring to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing material support to Al-Qaeda."
Holder said that if successful, the plot would have been the most serious attack against the United States since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
He said that before law enforcement authorities learned of his plans, Zazi's plot "was in motion and would have been deadly" but that Zazi was under surveillance throughout.
"There is no doubt that American lives have been saved," Holder said. "This investigation is ongoing and we will continue to work around the clock, both to bring others involved to justice and to obtain intelligence that we can use to disrupt further plots."
A New York City imam, Ahmad Afzali, and two high school classmates of Zazi are also charged in connection with the case.
Zazi moved to the New York City district of Queens as a teenager and attended secondary school there.
He attended a mosque led by Afzali, who has proclaimed himself a "pro-American imam" and has cooperated with police in past investigations.
In this case, Afzali is accused of alerting Zazi that he was under police surveillance.
Zazi told prosecutors that in 2008, he and some friends from Queens traveled to Pakistan en route to Afghanistan, in order, he said, to "fight alongside [the] Taliban against the United States and its allies."
While he and his friends were in Pakistan, Zazi said they were recruited by members of Al-Qaeda, who asked them to return to the United States to carry out martyrdom operations.
Prosecutors said Zazi took a bomb-making course at an Al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan, had notes on how to make explosives on his laptop computer, and had purchased materials similar to those used in the bomb attacks in London in 2005.
In January, U.S. authorities arrested two of Zazi's classmates -- Adis Medunjanin, originally from Bosnia, and Zarein Ahmedzay, originally from Afghanistan -- after a high-speed chase in Queens.
Medunjanin pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and receiving military-style training from Al-Qaeda. Ahmedzay pleaded not guilty to a charge of making false statements to the FBI.
Zazi's guilty plea - which the court said were reached through an agreement between prosecutors and the defense -- suggests he is willing to cooperate with investigators.
He faces life in prison if convicted.
compiled from agency reports