Three Islamic State group sympathizers plotted to cause bloodshed at New York City concert venues, subway stations and Times Square before US agents thwarted the international terror plot, the office of Acting US Attorney Joon Kim in Manhattan said Friday.
One of the men, 19-year-old Canadian citizen Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, has been in US custody since May 2016, when he was arrested in New Jersey. He pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in October 2016, the prosecutors said.
Talha Haroon, a 19-year-old US citizen, was arrested in Pakistan, where he lives, around September 2016, and Russell Salic, a 37-year-old citizen of the Philippines, was arrested in that country in April of this year, according to Kim's office.
Prosecutors said they expected Haroon and Salic to be extradited to the United States to face the charges, which include conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism and to support a terrorist organization. If convicted of the most serious charges, they face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The capture of the Canadian citizen came after an investigation using an undercover FBI agent posing as an Islamic extremist that also led to the arrests last year of Haroon in Pakistan and Salic in the Philippines.
According to criminal complaints, El Bahnasawy, 19, sent the undercover agent an image of Times Square with a smartphone message saying, "We seriously need to car bomb times square. Look at these crowds of people!"
In another, he expressed a desire to "shoot up concerts cuz they kill a lot people. ... We just walk in with guns in our hands. That's how Paris guys did it," the papers said in an apparent reference to the slaughter by men armed with assault weapons at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris during a performance of the rock group Eagles of Death Metal in 2015.
The complaints unsealed Friday did not name the New York City venues.
The undercover agent and El Bahnasawy also were in communication with the 19-year-old Haroon, who wanted to join El Bahnasawy in New York City for the attacks, authorities said.
Haroon, who at one point met with an explosives expert in Pakistan for information on building bombs, told the undercover agent the subway was a "perfect" place to shoot passengers, and that "when we run out of bullets we let the vests go off," the court papers said.
After Haroon talked about what was needed to build explosives, El Bahnasawy bought 40 pounds of hydrogen peroxide, batteries, Christmas lights, thermometers and other ingredients commonly used in homemade bombs, authorities said.
He later shipped the material to the undercover agent in the United States, where he and Haroon planned to use a cabin in a rural area within driving distance of the city to build bombs and take target practice, they said.
According to documents unsealed in federal court in Manhattan, El Bahnasawy and Haroon planned to carry out attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ran from early June to early July.
El Bahnasawy told an undercover law enforcement officer posing as a supporter of Islamic State that he wanted to "create the next 9/11," prosecutors said.
Salic, 37, was accused of sending money to help fund the attacks, court papers said. He told the undercover agent his ultimate goal was to join the Islamic State group in Syria but that "it would be a great pleasure if we can slaughter" people in New York, the papers said.
El Bahnasawy pleaded guilty in October 2016, but the case was sealed while the investigation continued. His attorney, Sabrina Shroff, declined to comment Friday.
All three men face possible terms of live in prison on charges including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said it assisted the FBI in the investigation. "At no time was the safety or security of the public at risk," it said.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.