Federal agents have charged a 24-year-old Colorado resident, his father and another man with making false statements as part of an extensive terror investigation that stretches to Pakistan.
Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan national, and his father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, were arrested Saturday night in the Denver suburb of Aurora. An acquaintance of the two men, Ahmad Wais Afzali of Flushing, New York, was also arrested. Afzali is a legal permanent resident from Afghanistan. “Each of the defendants has been charged by criminal complaint with knowingly and willfully making false statements to the FBI in a matter involving international and domestic terrorism,” the Justice Department said in a statement. Zazi and his father, 53, are expected to make their first appearance in a Colorado federal court Monday. Afzali, 37, is scheduled to appear in a New York court the same day. If convicted, each faces eight years in prison. Watch Zazi being taken into custody by FBI agents Federal agents were investigating several people in the United States, Pakistan and elsewhere in relation to a plot to detonate improvised explosive devices in the United States, officials said. The alleged terrorist plot, which came to light this week after raids in New York, may have involved a major transportation center, like a large railroad or subway station, sources close to the investigation told CNN on Thursday. There were plans for an attack, presumably in the New York area, where crowds are large and security screening for nonairport travelers is lax, the sources said. Two sources familiar with the investigation said that Zazi had video of New York’s Grand Central Terminal, a massive junction of rail and subway lines, as well as shops and restaurants, which see an average of more than a half million visitors per day. However on Saturday, David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security, said it is important to note that we have no specific information regarding the timing, location or target of any planned attack.” According to the criminal complaints against him, Najibullah Zazi left the United States for Peshawar in northwest Pakistan in August 2008, returning home in January.
Colorado man, father arrested in terror probe
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Peshawar is the capital of the North West Frontier Province, which intelligence analysts say is a haven for Islamic militants who have launched attacks inside Pakistan and targeted U.S. forces in neighboring Pakistan. According to court filings, Najibullah Zazi traveled by rental car earlier in September from his Colorado home to New York, staying at an apartment in Queens. Watch why authorities want to talk with Zazi The court documents described a September 11 search of Zazi’s rental car. During the search, agents found a laptop computer containing a photographic image of nine pages of handwritten notes, according to the court filings. According to the affidavits, the notes contained instructions on how to make explosives. At the Queens residence where Zazi stayed, FBI agents seized a black scale containing several AA batteries. Zazi’s fingerprints were on both, the criminal complaint against him said. An FBI handwriting expert determined the handwriting in the photographed document was similar to Zazi’s, the complaint said. When asked about the notes found on the laptop, Najibullah Zazi “falsely asserted that he had never seen the document before and stated he had not written the notes,” according to the affidavits. During the interview Wednesday, Zazi added that if it was found on his computer, he must have unintentionally downloaded it as part of a religious book. He said he deleted the book within days after he realized that its contents discussed a holy war, investigators said. Zazi submitted to two more voluntary interviews the next two days as part of a proffer agreement, which is a written understanding that allows a person to provide information about a possible crime without his words being used against him at trial. At those interviews, investigators said Zazi admitted that he attended courses and received instructions on weapons and explosives at an al Qaeda training facility in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan during his 2008 trip there. Investigators also filed false statement charges against Zazi’s father and another man, Afzali. In a press release, Justice Department officials said they intercepted a number of calls between the Zazis and Afzali on September 11. Afzali is accused of tipping off the Zazis that investigators had approached him for information about them. The criminal complaint against Afzali said the Queens man falsely asserted that he never told Zazi that agents were monitoring him on the phone, nor did he ask Zazi about evidence in his rental car. Agents had Afzali saying he did in calls that they intercepted and recorded. Muhammed Wali Zazi told investigators that he had not called, nor had he received a call, from anyone in New York asking him about his son’s activities. He also said he did not know anyone named Afzali despite recorded phone calls that showed he did. Arthur Folsom, Nabibullah Zazi’s attorney, denied the government’s contention, saying his client did not admit to having ties to the terror group. “He never admitted going to a terrorist training camp,” Folsom told CNN affiliate KUSA in Denver on Friday. “Some of the information in news reports was not true,” Folsom said. “There have been no plea negotiations … they (FBI) haven’t made any offer.” Zazi told The Denver Post that he has not admitted any ties to the terrorist group. “If it was true, they wouldn’t allow me to leave,” Zazi told the paper Saturday. “I don’t think the FBI or the police would allow anyone who admits being a terrorist to go free for one minute.” Zazi, who was born in Afghanistan and lived in Pakistan before moving to the United States, said he goes to Pakistan to visit his wife. “I have a wife over there,” he told the paper. “I’m young and she is young. I was there (at her house) the whole time.” Zazi is a limousine driver for First ABC Transportation that operates near Denver International Airport. A man at the company, who identified himself only as “Joe,” said he was startled to hear Zazi was under investigation. He said Zazi was a hard-working man who was single-handedly supporting his family. “He is a young, nerdy, kind of good kid — nothing to do with religious or anything,” the man said. “He is a kid.”
Joe said co-workers called Zazi “the bearded one” in a lighthearted way. When he heard that Zazi might be associated with a bomb plot, he said, “I was literally laughing.” “I agree with his lawyer he has nothing to do with that kind of stuff. His character is much better than that,” Joe said.