By Tom Hays and Matt Apuzzo
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department prepared charges against one of the world's most-wanted terrorism suspects Wednesday, adding a high-ranking al-Qaida figure to the list of people linked to last year's thwarted New York City subway bombing, law enforcement officials said.
Adnan Shukrijumah, who has eluded the FBI for years and remains at large, was expected to be named in an indictment in Brooklyn federal court, the officials said.
They did not say what charges Shukrijumah would face. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the case.
Investigators believe Shukrijumah met with one of the would-be suicide bombers in a plot that Attorney General Eric Holder called one of the most dangerous since the 9/11 terror attacks.
Shukrijumah's involvement in the subway plot suggests the attack was important to al-Qaida's senior leadership. Shukrijumah is among the top candidates to be al-Qaida's next head of external operations, the man in charge of planning attacks worldwide.
The U.S. citizens were arrested in September 2009 before, prosecutors said, they could carry out a trio of suicide bombings in Manhattan. Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay have pleaded guilty and admitted planning to detonate homemade bombs on the subway during rush hour. A third man, Adis Medunjanin, awaits trial.
Counterterrorism officials believe Ahmedzay, and perhaps the other two men, met Shukrijumah at a terror camp in Pakistan.
After 9/11, Shukrijumah, 34, was seen as one of al-Qaida's best chances to attack inside the U.S. or Europe, captured terrorist Abu Zubaydah told U.S. authorities. Shukrijumah studied at a community college in Florida but when the FBI showed up to arrest him as a material witness to a terrorism case in 2003, he already had left the country.
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In 2004, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft called Shukrijumah a "clear and present danger" to the United States. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.