New York man accused of bomb plot admits Islamic State support

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York City man who prosecutors said discussed carrying out a pressure cooker bomb attack for Islamic State with one of its top hackers and helped another man try to travel abroad to join the militant group pleaded guilty on Friday.

Munther Omar Saleh, 21, pleaded guilty in federal court in Brooklyn to four counts, including conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State and assaulting a federal officer by charging at a law enforcement vehicle.

He is one of 114 people to face U.S. charges since March 2014 related to the Islamic State militant group, which has seized control of parts of Iraq and Syria, according to the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.

Saleh, a resident of the New York City borough of Queens and a U.S. citizen, was one of six young men in New York and New Jersey charged in connection with what prosecutors said was a group of individuals who had pledged allegiance to Islamic State, or ISIS, and discussed traveling to join the group.

In court, Saleh admitted that in 2015, he helped New Jersey resident Nader Saadeh with his travel and accompanied him to John F. Kennedy International Airport for a flight to Jordan, where Saadeh was subsequently detained.

Prosecutors said Saleh, who was studying at an aeronautics college in the borough of Queens, also researched carrying out a domestic attack and discussed his plan with another man, Fareed Mumuni.

In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Solomon said Saleh received instructions on how to make a pressure cooker bomb similar to those used in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings from Junaid Hussain, a British hacker who was a senior Islamic State figure.

Hussain, who officials have said was active in encouraging sympathizers to carry out "lone wolf" attacks, was killed in Syria by a U.S. air strike in August 2015.

In June 2015, Saleh and a high school senior, Imran Rabbani, were arrested after running toward a law enforcement surveillance vehicle as they drove to a mosque, according to court records.

"I knew the officers were probably following me because of my support for ISIS," Saleh said.

Saleh faces up 53 years in prison when he is sentenced on May 16, along with Mumuni, 22, who pleaded guilty on Thursday and faces up to 85 years.

Rabbani was sentenced to 20 months in prison in August after pleading guilty to a non-terrorism charge. Saadeh and two other New Jersey men have pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler; Editing by Leslie Adler)