Al Qaeda linked NY and Colorado Terror Suspects to Appear in Court - Affadavits
September 21, 2009
Terror Suspects to Appear in Court
By EVAN PEREZ and STEPHANIE SIMON
Three people, including an Afghanistan-born Colorado man who allegedly hand wrote bomb-making instructions, face court appearances Monday on charges of lying to authorities in an ongoing terror investigation.Associated Press
FBI agents arrested terrorism suspect Najibullah Zazi in Aurora, Colo.
A computer file containing nine pages of handwritten notes on how to make a bomb was found in the rental car of one of the men arrested, according to criminal complaints unsealed in U.S. district courts in Colorado and New York. The investigation focuses on several individuals in the U.S., Pakistan and elsewhere, the complaints said, and U.S. officials said more arrests were expected.
Late Saturday, federal agents arrested 24-year-old Najibullah Zazi, a legal U.S. resident of Aurora, Colo., along with his father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, 53, also of Aurora and a U.S. citizen originally from Afghanistan. In New York, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested Ahmad Wais Afzali, 37, an Afghan national who is a legal U.S. resident of Flushing, N.Y.
An attorney for the Zazis declined to comment. The younger Mr. Zazi and the attorney in recent days have repeatedly denied that Mr. Zazi had any ties to terrorism. Ron Kuby, attorney for Mr. Afzali, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
The men are expected to make initial court appearances Monday in Denver and Brooklyn.
U.S. officials stressed that they didn't have specific information on the timing, location or target of any planned attack. The men have been charged with one count each of making false statements.
People familiar with the matter said that investigators are continuing to pursue leads in the case. If details of the plot are proved, they said, investigators would regard it as one of the most serious uncovered since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Three Afghan men have been arrested in connection with an alleged plot to launch an attack in the U.S., the Justice Department said. Courtesy of Reuters.
U.S. officials had been questioning the men since Sept. 14, when officials raided homes in New York a few days after the younger Mr. Zazi visited there.
FBI agents searching the rental car that Mr. Zazi drove from Colorado to New York found a laptop computer containing an image of the notes on how to make bombs, according to affidavits released with the complaints. The complaint says that investigators traced the handwritten notes to email accounts -- including one registered to a "Kado Gul" in Peshawar, Pakistan -- that investigators believe were all controlled by Najibullah Zazi. The complaint adds that the handwriting in the document has characteristics in common with samples of Mr. Zazi's handwriting.
Najibullah Zazi said in interviews with FBI agents that during a 2008 trip to Pakistan, he attended courses and received instruction on weapons and explosives at an al Qaeda training facility in the federally administered tribal areas of the country, according to the FBI affidavits.
Mr. Afzali, an imam at a mosque in Flushing, was identified in the federal complaint as a police informant whom New York Police Department investigators consulted about Mr. Zazi. The federal complaint charges that Mr. Afzali then warned Mr. Zazi that he was under surveillance.
According to a transcript of a phone call monitored by the FBI and quoted in the criminal complaint, Mr. Afzali said to Mr. Zazi: "I was exposed to something yesterday from law enforcement. And they came to ask me about your characters."
Some of Mr. Afzali's comments to Mr. Zazi on the calls were interpreted by investigators as appearing to coach Mr. Zazi on what to say to investigators, according to federal officials familiar with the probe. Mr. Afzali, in one conversation with Mr. Zazi monitored by investigators, asked Mr. Zazi whether there was any "evidence" in his car. In another call, cited in the criminal complaints, Mr. Afzali queried Mr. Zazi about a trip Mr. Zazi made to Pakistan and said "You went to visit your wife, right?" Mr. Afzali also allegedly advised Mr. Zazi, "Listen, our phone call is being monitored."
A message seeking comment at the mosque, Masjid Hazrati Abu Bakr, wasn't immediately returned.
The alleged tip-off led to concerns among federal authorities that the probe had been jeopardized. Had NYPD investigators not shared photos of Mr. Zazi and others with Mr. Afzali, federal agents would have continued monitoring the men and "we would know a lot more about this plot than we do right now," one federal official said.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne denied that the probe was jeopardized by the actions of NYPD investigators. "This was a successful investigation," he said. Mr. Browne said that the "NYPD has worked closely and successfully with the FBI on this investigation and scores of others."
Prosecutors allege that Mr. Zazi, under surveillance by FBI agents, traveled from Colorado to New York on Sept. 10 in a rental car, with plans to turn in the car in New York.
Authorities were on heightened alert given the anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks. NYPD officers showed a photo of Mr. Zazi to Mr. Afzali, an informant, and others in New York that day, according to the FBI statement. The following day Mr. Afzali tipped off Mr. Zazi that he was being watched, the statement says.
Mr. Zazi flew home to Denver on Sept. 12, according to the statement. FBI agents conducted raids at the Zazi home and that of a relative in Colorado as they subjected the father and son to hours of questioning over several days.
Federal prosecutors allege that Mr. Zazi lied when asked by FBI agents about certain evidence uncovered in searches of his car. Mohammed Wali Zazi is accused of lying and then correcting statements when asked about his son's activities. Mr. Afzali allegedly lied when asked about his call to Mr. Zazi.
One official briefed on the case said investigators were aided in part by assistance from Pakistani intelligence. "It's helping us piece together a picture of how these guys operate," the official said. "There are many people on which we are getting tip-offs right now."
The Zazis spent Saturday at home and in meetings with their lawyer, after breaking off cooperation with the FBI following three days of questioning.
The younger Mr. Zazi was born in Afghanistan and lived in Pakistan as a child before moving to the U.S.
Mr. Zazi's attorney said in interviews last week that Mr. Zazi's travels to Pakistan were for family matters, especially visiting his wife, an Afghan national who lives there.
—Siobhan Gorman contributed to this article.