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On August 30, 19-year-old Awais Chudhary was charged by a federal court in Brooklyn with “attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS),” reports the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
The young man, a naturalized citizen originally from Pakistan, was arrested only one day prior to his first court appearance before United States Magistrate Judge James Orenstein. He was ordered to be held without bail.
“The defendant allegedly planned to conduct a deadly attack in New York on behalf of ISIS,” stated Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers. “The National Security Division, working with our partners, will remain vigilant in our efforts to identify, disrupt, and hold accountable those who would conduct a terrorist attack on our soil. I want to thank the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who are responsible for this case and prevented this defendant from carrying out his deadly plans.”
Chudhary was caught as the result of an undercover investigation by law enforcement officers. He is alleged to have communicated to these undercover officers through text messaging that he planned to carryout a stabbing or bombing attack in Queens inspired by and on behalf of ISIS.
According to the DOJ, he also wanted to inspire others to commit acts of terrorism, and had planned to record his actions for that end. Chudhary is alleged to have identified various pedestrian bridges over the Grand Central Parkway to the Flushing Bay Promenade (the Promenade) and the World’s Fair Marina (the Marina) as locations for the attack.
“On Aug. 23, 2019,” reports the DOJ, “Chudhary told an undercover agent that he intended to use a knife “because that’s what he knows,” but if the undercover agent could instruct him on how to build a bomb, he would consider using an explosive device at a “mini-bridge over a busy road with many cars.”
Additionally, Chudhary contacted a different undercover agent, texting him a screenshot of a document entitled, “Islamic State” with the subheadings: “Places to Strike,” “The Ideal Knife” and “Knives to Avoid.”
Included in the instructions are anatomical diagrams showing killers where to target victims when using a knife. He also sent the agent “videos of pedestrian bridges over the Grand Central Parkway and stated that he was considering throwing explosives over the fencing at vehicles passing below.”
“There’s no doubt Chudhary allegedly wanted to make headlines by attacking innocent people going about their daily lives,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.
“Thanks to the diligent work of the agents, analysts, and detectives on the FBI New York JTTF, the only thing to report today is his arrest, and the only photos Chudhary will be featured in are the ones taken in our prisoner processing room prior to his arrival in federal prison.”
Earlier in the week, Chudhary ordered a number of murder tools online, including a tactical knife, a mask, gloves, and a cellphone chest and head strap to facilitate his recording of the attack. He was arrested by law enforcement while retrieving these tools.
“Awais Chudhary had accepted the call from ISIS to kill fellow New Yorkers in the city he called home,” stated NYPD Commissioner O’Neill. “He had carefully planned, conducted reconnaissance, picked a target, and was in the process of obtaining the weapon. All he has left to do was to strike. The FBI agents and NYPD detectives of the JTTF should be commended for the disruption of this plot. Their work almost certainly saved lives.”
In addition to purchasing murder weapons online, Chudhary had actually went to the proposed attack locations, conducting “several reconnaissance trips,” reports the DOJ.
FBI agents managed to catch Chudhary entering the Promenade in the vicinity of 27th Avenue and Ditmars Boulevard. He was seen taking videos and photos with his cellphone of various locations, as well as the Marina, a nearby gas station, a donut shop and a security camera near the donut shop.
“As alleged, Awais Chudhary planned to kill innocent civilians on behalf of ISIS and record the bloodshed in the hope of inspiring others to commit attacks,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “This Office, together with the FBI, the NYPD and all members of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force will continue working tirelessly to identify ISIS sympathizers like the defendant and prevent them from carrying out their murderous intentions.”
This case is now being handled by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York’s National Security and Cybercrime Section.
Awais Chudhary is currently convicted for attempting to provide material support to ISIS, but, given the magnitude of evidence collected by various law enforcement, it is possible that more charges may be laid as the case proceeds.
Currently, if convicted, Chudhary faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment, reports the DOJ.