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New Jersey men guilty of conspiracy to murder outside U.S.

NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - Two New Jersey men pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiring to commit murder outside the United States after they were arrested trying to travel to Somalia and accused of planning to meet Islamist militants.

Mohamed Mahmood Alessa, 21, and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, 24, appeared before U.S. District Judge Dickinson Debevoise at Newark federal court and face life in prison after agreeing to a plea deal. They are due back in court on June 20.

The men were arrested at New York's John F. Kennedy airport in June last year as they tried to board separate flights to Egypt on their way to Somalia, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors initially accused them of conspiring to commit an act of international terrorism by waging "violent jihad" through Al Shabaab, a Somali youth movement tied to al Qaeda.

Their arrests followed a failed attempt by a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen to set off a car bomb in New York's Times Square in May last year and an incident on Christmas Day 2009 in which a Nigerian man is accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner by setting off explosives hidden in his underwear.

(Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Michelle Nichols)