NEW YORK: A Vietnamese man pleaded guilty Friday in New York to supporting Al-Qaeda in Yemen, where he learned to build a bomb earmarked to blow up London’s Heathrow airport.
Minh Quang Pham, who was arrested in Britain in June 2012 and extradited to the United States in February last year, faces a maximum sentence of life behind bars in the United States when he is sentenced on April 14.
The 33-year-old admitted one count of providing material support to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, one count of conspiring to receive military training from AQAP and one count of possessing and using a machine gun.
“Pham provided material support to the highest levels of AQAP. Now all that awaits him is sentencing for his admitted acts of terrorism,” said US Attorney Preet Bharara.
He left London, where he lived, in December 2010 for Yemen, where he received training from Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born AQAP leader killed in a US drone strike in 2011.
Awlaki taught Pham how to create a bomb using household chemicals and directed him to explode such a device at the arrivals area at Heathrow airport, US prosecutors said.
Pham was stopped at Heathrow upon his return. Electronic files setting out his links to AQAP and a live round of armor-piercing ammunition capable of being used in a Kalashnikov assault rifle were found in his belongings.
AQAP was formed in 2009 after a merger between militants in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. The group has been linked to a string of attacks since its formation, including the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris in January 2015.
The group was also behind an attempt to blow up an American airliner over Michigan on Christmas Day in 2009.