United States: Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, a Canadian who confessed to plotting terrorist attacks in New York City for the so-called Islamic State was sentenced Wednesday to 40 years’ imprisonment.
Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy, of Mississauga, pleaded guilty after confessing to plotting an attack on behalf of the terrorist organization. The attack planned to hit Times Square and the New York City subway system in the summer of 2016.
U.S. prosecutors had asked for a life sentence for Abdulrahman El Bahnasawy.
The defence, meanwhile, had asked for leniency, depicting the 20-year-old as an isolated, mentally ill addict who, with treatment, could “grow old in peace in Canada.”
Assistant Attorney General Demers said in a statement that El Bahnasawy travelled to the US with an intent to commit a terrorist act.
“El Bahnasawy conspired with others to conduct terrorist attacks in New York City in support of ISIS. Today’s sentence reflects the severity of his conduct and holds him accountable for his terrorist activities,” he said in a statement.
The goal of the attack, says Demers, was to “wreak havoc and destruction” on the US city, and to detonate bombs in two of the most heavily trafficked areas of NYC. There was also an intention to shoot people at concert venues, according to the prosecution.
“El Bahnasawy pinpointed bomb locations on a map of the subway system, and acquired an array of bomb-making materials. El Bahnasawy aspired, in his words, to ‘create the next 9/11.’ Thanks to our law enforcement partners in New York, nationally, and internationally, this potentially devastating plot was thwarted,” said Demers.
El Bahnasawy used encrypted electronic messaging applications to conspire with Talha Haroon, a 20-year-old U.S. citizen residing in Pakistan, and Russell Salic, a 38-year-old Philippines citizen and resident, to conduct bombings and shootings, say lawyers.
They say his plans were elaborate: He “acquired bomb-making materials and helped secure a cabin within driving distance of New York City to use for building explosive devices and staging the NYC Attacks.”
The terror plot was infiltrated by an undercover FBI agent who posed as an ISIS supporter prepared to join in.
The judge told El Bahnasawy he was “doing him a favour” by sentencing him to 40 years, Edney said.
“[The judge] felt he was balancing the seriousness of [El Bahnasawy’s] intent for action, while at the same time balancing it with his mental issues,” Edney said.
While there’s no requirement for the US Bureau of Prisons to do so, the judge said he would do his best to make sure El Bahnasawy was placed in a prison that provided proper mental health treatment, Edney said.
El Bahnasawy was arrested in May 2016 after travelling from Canada to the US. He has been in custody ever since.
The family’s lawyer, Denis Edney said Elbahnasawy’s mother, Khdiga, was removed from the courtroom after learning the sentence.
“Khdiga shouted at the judge and was taken out of the courtroom,” Edney said.
El Bahnasawy was born in Kuwait and moved to Ontario with his parents as a child. Beginning at age 14, his parents sent him to drug treatment centres in Kuwait, Toronto and Egypt.
Following his release from an Egyptian treatment program in 2015, he returned to Canada and became fixated with online Islamist extremism.
From his bedroom in his parents’ suburban Toronto home, he began corresponding with Abu Saad al-Sudani, a “high-level ISIS recruiter and attack planner” in Syria, according to prosecutors.
“He was exceptionally vulnerable to ISIS messaging,” his lawyers argued. “Isolated, he found a friend in the undercover agent, who praised his worst ideas and was instrumental in bringing them closer to reality.”
Prosecutors said the portrayal of Banhasawy as a vulnerable, weak victim “could not be further from the truth” and called him “dangerous and calculating,” with a “steadfast desire to kill.”