A Colorado man arrested in a U.S. terror probe has been indicted on a charge of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction — explosive bombs — against persons or property in the United States, the Justice Department said Thursday.
A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of New York on Wednesday returned a one-count indictment against Najibullah Zazi, 24, of Aurora, Colorado — a Denver suburb. The Justice Department said FBI agents in Colorado first arrested Zazi on Saturday in a criminal complaint that said he “knowingly and willfully” made false statements to the FBI involving international and domestic terrorism. In addition, others arrested included Zazi’s father — Mohammed Wali Zazi, 53, also from suburban Denver, and Ahmad Wais Afzali, 37, a Muslim cleric and funeral director from Queens, New York. All three — arrested in what the Justice Department has said was a plot to detonate bombs in the United States — were charged with lying to federal agents during the probe of the alleged plot. Originally from Afghanistan, Mohammed Wali Zazi is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and Afzali and Najibullah Zazi are permanent legal residents. The Zazis were arrested in Colorado, and Afzail was detained in New York.
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The Justice Department is working to have Zazi transferred from Colorado to New York to be arraigned on the new charge. If convicted, Zazi faces a potential sentence of life in prison. The one-count indictment alleges that between August 1, 2008, and September 21, Zazi “knowingly and intentionally conspired with others to use one or more of the explosives.” It said Zazi and others “traveled in interstate and foreign commerce, used e-mail and the Internet, and that this offense and the results of the offense would have affected interstate and foreign commerce.” “We are investigating a wide range of leads related to this alleged conspiracy, and we will continue to work around the clock to ensure that anyone involved is brought to justice,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “We believe any imminent threat arising from this case has been disrupted, but as always, we remind the American public to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.” A government detention motion filed in New York and in Colorado said that “Zazi received detailed bomb-making instructions in Pakistan, purchased components of improvised explosive devices, and traveled to New York City on September 10, 2009, in furtherance of his criminal plans.” It said that Zazi traveled overseas to receive bomb-making instructions, conducted Internet research on explosives’ components and made purchases of components “necessary to produce TATP (Triacetone Triperoxide) and other explosive devices.”