Three men charged with lying to federal agents during a terrorism probe are scheduled to make court appearances Monday.
Najibullah Zazi, 24, and his 53-year-old father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, are expected to make their first appearances in a Colorado federal court. Ahmad Wais Afzali, 37, is scheduled to appear in a federal court in New York. They were arrested over the weekend. All are originally from Afghanistan. Mohammed Wali Zazi is a naturalized U.S. citizen, while Afzali and Najibullah Zazi are permanent legal residents. If convicted, each faces eight years in prison. The Zazis and Afzali, a Muslim cleric and funeral director from the New York borough of Queens, are among several people under investigation in connection with a plot to detonate bombs in the United States, according to the Justice Department. Watch Zazi being taken into custody by FBI agents The plot may have been targeting a major transportation center, like a large railroad or subway station, sources close to the investigation told CNN last week. Court papers describe conversations that allegedly took place. At one point, according to the court papers, Afzali warned Najibullah Zazi that their phone call was being monitored.
Terror suspect: ‘Our phone call is being monitored’
Criminal complaint against Najibullah Zazi (PDF)
Criminal complaint against Mohammed Wali Zazi (PDF)
Criminal complaint against Ahmad Wais Afzali (PDF)
“I was exposed to something yesterday from the authorities,” Afzali allegedly told Najibullah Zazi in a September 11 call. “And they came to ask me about your characters. They asked me about you guys. … I told them that they are innocent, law-abiding.” Afzali, however, called the questions from police “a good sign.” “The bad sign is for them coming to you guys and picking you up automatically,” he said. And he told the younger Zazi, “Don’t get into the Afghanistan garbage, Iraq garbage. … Listen, our phone call is being monitored.” The probe emerged after a series of raids in Queens last Monday, three days after the intercepted calls. A police stop of Najibullah Zazi during a visit to New York had raised investigators’ concern that he would discover he was under surveillance, a former counterterrorism official familiar with the investigation told CNN last week. Najibullah Zazi, who spent three days being questioned by FBI agents last week, and his father were arrested Saturday night in the Denver suburb of Aurora, the Justice Department said. Watch why authorities wanted to talk with Zazi While the Zazis and Afzali are among several people under investigation in the terror probe, federal agents have “no specific information regarding the timing, location or target of any planned attack,” David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement. At the Queens residence where Najibullah Zazi stayed during his visit, FBI agents seized a black scale containing several AA batteries. Zazi’s fingerprints were on both, the criminal complaint against him said. And agents searched his rental car and laptop computer while he was there, turning up what they said were handwritten notes of his that explained how to make, handle and detonate explosives, according to the complaint. Najibullah Zazi and his attorney have denied reports that bomb-making instructions were stored on the suspect’s computer. That denial makes up the heart of the charge against him. The criminal complaint against Afzali said he falsely asserted that he never told Zazi that agents were monitoring him on the phone, and that he did not ask Zazi about evidence in his rental car. And Mohammed Wali Zazi allegedly 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, the FBI stated. An FBI expert determined the handwriting in the photographed document was similar to Najibullah Zazi’s, according to the complaint. But during an interview with investigators Wednesday, Zazi denied having the instructions and said 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. Authorities said he gave three days of interviews with the FBI as part of a proffer agreement — a written understanding that allows a person to provide information about a possible crime without his words being used against him at trial. During those interviews, investigators said, Najibullah 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 a 2008 trip there. Arthur Folsom, Zazi’s attorney, denied those claims. Sources close to the investigation told CNN on Thursday that there were plans for an attack, presumably in the New York area, where crowds are large and security screening for non-airport-travelers is lax. Two sources familiar with the investigation said the younger 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 a day. New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the investigation “is only just beginning.” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the investigation is a reminder “that terrorism hasn’t gone away.” “I feel safe walking the streets,” he said. “I feel safe having my kids live here. But that’s only because we keep our professionals trained and funded and up to strengths necessary to do the best jobs we can to protect us all.” Najibullah Zazi left the United States for Peshawar, in northwestern Pakistan, in August 2008 and returned home the following January, according to the criminal complaints.
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 Afghanistan. Zazi, a limousine driver for a Denver-area company, told The Denver Post that he had made trips to Pakistan to visit his wife.