NYC subway bomb plot suspect pleads not guilty

Abid Naseer CBS/Jane Rosenberg

NEW YORK A suspect in an alleged al Qaeda plot against the New York City subways also was part of a terror campaign that would have targeted Britain and Norway, U.S. prosecutors said.

Abid Naseer pleaded not guilty Monday through his attorney, Steven Brounstein. The lawyer declined to comment outside court.

The judge ordered Naseer, who was extradited last week from Britain, held without bail until his next court date, on March 7.

Prosecutors aim to prove that Naseer collected bomb ingredients, conducted reconnaissance and was in frequent contact with other alleged al-Qaida operatives. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison.

Naseer was one of 12 people arrested in a counterterrorism operation in April 2009, but all were subsequently released without charge. They were ordered to leave Britain, but Naseer avoided being deported to Pakistan after a judge ruled it was likely he would be mistreated if he were sent home.

Naseer was rearrested in July 2010 at the request of prosecutors in Brooklyn, where a federal indictment named him as a co-defendant with Adis Medunjanin.

In January 2011, a British judge approved Naseer's extradition. The judge acknowledged there was a "very real risk" Naseer would be tortured if the U.S. ultimately returned him to Pakistan but said he believed the U.S. justice system would not ignore that concern.

Naseer's lawyer had argued that the U.S. would have fewer inhibitions about returning him to Pakistan.

U.S. authorities allege Medunjanin and two friends from Flushing High School in Queens - Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay - traveled to Pakistan in 2008 to seek terror training from al-Qaida.

Zazi, an airport van driver from Colorado, admitted in a guilty plea that once back from Pakistan he tested peroxide-based explosive materials in a makeshift lab in Denver in the fall of 2009 before traveling by car to New York to carry out the scheme.

CBS senior correspondent John Miller called it "the plot that almost happened."

"We talk about these plots all the time," Miller said last April. "Usually they're undercover sting operations: the FBI has all the controlling features, they make the bombs, they record the meetings. In this case they literally found out 24 hours basically beforehand, as Najibullah Zazi (who will be a witness in this case), got in his car with explosive components and headed for New York for targets in the New York City subway system."

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