Colorado man denies terrorist ties after NYC raids
Associated Press Writers
NEW YORK – A Colorado man denied Tuesday that he’s a central figure in a terrorism investigation that fed fears of a possible bomb plot and led to several police raids in New York City.
Najibullah Zazi told The Associated Press at his home outside Denver that he recently visited New York City and was the subject of a routine traffic stop Sept. 10 on the George Washington Bridge, which connects New York City and New Jersey. But he said he was allowed to leave and return to suburban Denver.
“All I can say is that I have no idea what it is all about,” Zazi said.
Two law enforcement officials confirmed Tuesday that a joint FBI-New York Police Department task force had put Zazi – a 24-year-old airport shuttle driver who a relative says recently traveled to Pakistan – under surveillance because of suspected links to al-Qaida.
The task force also feared Zazi may be involved in a potential plot involving homemade hydrogen peroxide-based explosives like those cited in an intelligence warning issued Monday, said the officials, who were not authorized to speak about the investigation and insisted on anonymity.
After Zazi traveled to New York City over the weekend, FBI agents and police officers armed with search warrants seeking bomb materials staged a surprise raid that rattled an urban, predominantly Asian neighborhood in a remote part of Queens. Investigators searched three apartments and questioned residents, including an Afghan immigrant who knew Zazi.
But no arrests were announced, and the FBI and NYPD has since refused to discuss the case, leaving unanswered questions about the nature, scope and intent of the potential plot.
Zazi told The Associated Press he was the subject of interest in the case but denied he is being investigated.
“I spent two days in New York, flew back, and I have nothing else to say,” he said. “I am an airport driver and that’s all I can say.”
The FBI and Homeland Security intelligence warning, issued to police departments, lists indicators that could tip off police to the peroxide-based bombs, such as people with burn marks on their hands, face or arms; foul odors coming from a room or building; and large industrial fans or multiple window fans. The warning, obtained by The Associated Press, also said that these homemade explosive materials can be hidden in backpacks, suitcases or plastic containers.
Colorado officials stressed there is no threat to the state.
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said he spoke with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security about the case. “They said there is no imminent threat. They didn’t expand on it, they didn’t explain the context,” he said.
Kathleen Wright, a special agent with the FBI in Denver, declined comment except to say, “I cannot confirm or deny any of the media reporting.”
Gov. Bill Ritter’s office said he had been briefed on the investigation regularly over the past several days.
Zazi’s aunt, Rabia Zazi, 35, told the AP that Najibullah was born in Pakistan and moved to the United States at an early age. He grew up in New York City and recently moved to Colorado, where he helps his father with an airport shuttle business, she said.
Asked if there was any reason to suspect him of any kind of illegal activity, she insisted: “He doesn’t have time. He’s working.
Banda reported from Colorado. Associated Press writers Devlin Barrett and Eileen Sullivan in Washington, Bonny Ghosh and Colleen Long in New York, Jim Anderson and Colleen Slevin in Denver and AP Researcher Barbara Sambriski contributed to this report.