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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Yemen-born terrorist backed attack on Times Square

The New York resident backed a Nice-style attack on the city during a conversation with a law enforcement informant

Mohamed Rafik Naji said he travelled to Yemen to join ISIL. / AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS
Mohamed Rafik Naji said he travelled to Yemen to join ISIL. / AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS

A Yemen-born New Yorker was recorded by a police informant indicating support for a truck-based terrorist attack in the city’s Times Square, according to court papers.

Mohamed Rafik Naji pleaded guilty on Friday to attempting to provide support to ISIL and admitted that he tried to join the organisation. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

He said he travelled to Yemen in 2015 to join ISIL and “encouraged another person to join," Naji said at the hearing. He said he did not join.

Naji frequently emailed his girlfriend, asking her for money and sending her a photograph of himself in black clothing in which a tactical vest and large knife could be seen, according to court documents.

In August 2015, a law enforcement informant began communicating with Naji through Facebook while he was in Yemen. On his return to New York in September 2015, the informant met Naji and recorded their conversations.

In July 2016, five days after an attack in Nice, France, that killed 84 people, Naji expressed his support for staging a similar attack in Times Square, according to court papers.