Loner Convicted in NYC Bomb Plot
Vegas Sun, NV
By TOM HAYS
0524dv-ny-subway-plot It was June 2004 when Shahawar Matin Siraj reached the
end of his rope.
Inside the Islamic bookstore where he worked, Siraj unwittingly recounted for
a paid police informant rumors among radicals that U.S. soldiers were sexually
abusing Iraqi girls.
"That was enough for me," the Pakistani immigrant said in one of a series of
secretly recorded conversations played at a trial in federal court. "I'm ready
to do anything."
What Siraj settled on doing was bombing one of Manhattan's busiest subway
stations - a scheme that resulted in his conviction Wednesday on federal
A jury in Brooklyn deliberated two days and reached the verdict in a case
that cast a spotlight on the New York Police Department's efforts to monitor
radical Muslims after the Sept. 11 attacks. Siraj faces up to life in prison at
sentencing Oct. 5, although the term could be much shorter under sentencing
The 23-year-old high school dropout - who had rejected a plea deal that would
have put him behind bars for 10 years - listened to the verdict with downcast
Afterward, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly issued a statement hailing the
outcome as "an important milestone in safeguarding New York against terrorist
plotters whether homegrown or foreign."
Siraj's attorney, Martin Stolar, called such claims misleading.
"This is not somebody who is a terrorist," he told reporters outside court.
"What they should worry about are sleeper cells, not Matin Siraj."
The defense had sought to portray Siraj as an impressionable simpleton - his
own lawyer referred to him as "not the brightest bulb in the chandelier" - who
was lured into a phony plot.
Prosecutors argued Siraj was both the initiator and ...
mastermind of a serious threat.
Siraj and another man suspected in the plot, James Elshafay, were arrested on
the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention carrying crude diagrams of
their target - the subway station in Herald Square, a dense shopping district
that includes Macy's flagship department store.
Elshafay immediately agreed to cooperate with the government.
Authorities said Siraj had no affiliation with known terrorist organizations.
Instead, he was a relative loner whose anti-American rants caught the attention
of the informant and an undercover police officer, both of whom the NYPD
assigned to identify and track Islamic extremists in the city's Muslim
neighborhoods following the 2001 attacks.