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New York man pleads guilty to aiding al Qaeda

  • Story Highlights
  • Bryant Neal Vinas pleads guilty to conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals
  • American accused in 2008 rocket attack on U.S. military base in Afghanistan
  • Authorities say man gave information about New York transit system to al Qaeda
  • Man pleaded guilty in January; indictment unsealed this week
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A New York man pleaded guilty in January to charges of aiding al Qaeda and helping attack a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday.

Bryant Neal Vinas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and receiving military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization, according to Monica McLean, spokeswoman for the FBI's New York office.

Authorities had accused Vinas of firing rockets at the U.S. military base along with others in September 2008, according to the indictment, filed under seal in January. In addition, authorities said he provided al Qaeda with information about the New York transit system and the Long Island Railroad.

Vinas, 26, is from Long Island and is an American citizen, said a source close to the investigation. He was arrested in Pakistan, the source said.

Vinas pleaded guilty on January 28 in a closed hearing, according to court documents. At the time, the case was filed naming "John Doe" as a defendant and was sealed.

The January hearing was closed after U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled there was "substantial probability that a public guilty plea would prejudice a compelling interest of the government in gathering information of potential importance to protect the national security," according to a transcript of the public portion of the hearing, also unsealed Wednesday.

McLean would not say whether Vinas has been sentenced or comment on why the case was sealed. She said Vinas is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Vinas also is known as "Ibrahim," "Bashir al-Ameriki" and "Ben Yameen al-Kandee," according to the indictment.

A European intelligence source told CNN that Vinas was associated with Moez Garsallaoui, a Tunisian Islamist militant, at training camps in Pakistan. The source said Vinas also was associated with a Belgian-French cell recruited by Garsallaoui that included Hicham Beyayo. Beyayo was arrested in December in one of the largest counterterrorism operations in Belgian history.

In July 2008, Garsallaoui was boasting of cross-border attacks on U.S. bases in Afghanistan and of killing American soldiers, according to Belgian legal documents that CNN obtained.

Those documents, which include the interrogation reports of some of the alleged members of the terrorist cell, provide a detailed account of the training the group received from al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan's tribal areas, including instruction in how to fire rocket launchers and how to handle explosives.

CNN's Terry Frieden, Susan Candiotti, Nic Robertson and Ekin Middleton and journalist Paul Cruickshank contributed to this report.

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