FBI searched Denver-area beauty stores for terror clues
DENVER – FBI agents investigating a terror plot fanned out to beauty supply stores in the Denver suburbs and New York to check allegations a 24-year-old Afghan immigrant was trying to buy bomb-making materials, weeks before the suspect was accused of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.
Operators of several beauty supply stores in Aurora and New York confirmed they’d been visited by the FBI in recent weeks asking whether large quantities of hydrogen peroxide or acetone supplies had been purchased. None said they had sold any materials to Najibullah Zazi.
Zazi, 24, was charged in New York Thursday, and also appeared in a Denver courtroom on a count of lying to terrorism investigators. A new hearing was set for Friday in Denver on the terrorism charge.
FBI agents have said Zazi told them he received explosives and weapons training from al-Qaida during a trip to Pakistan last year. Zazi, who was arrested Saturday in Denver, has denied any links to terrorism.
Counterterrorism agents said he and others may have been planning to detonate homemade bombs based on hydrogen peroxide on New York City commuter trains.
In July and August, Zazi bought unusually large amounts of hydrogen peroxide and acetone products from beauty supply stores in the Denver metropolitan area, according to a government motion seeking to deny bail.
John Choy, a salesman for 707 Beauty Supply and Fashion Plus in Aurora, said FBI agents came to his store about two weeks ago and asked him if he sold hydrogen peroxide to anyone recently. Choy said the store only sells a few small bottles a year and no one who bought it fit the description of Zazi.
Nails Spa owner Kim Diep said the FBI asked her Monday if anybody came to purchase acetone. She said they don’t sell a big amount and nobody matching Zazi’s description bought any.
Pauline Graham, a saleswoman at Sally Beauty Supply in Aurora, said the FBI interviewed everyone in her store about two weeks ago. She said they also showed her photos.
“I didn’t recognize any of the men, but I recognized one of the women,” Graham said. She said the woman bought “ethnic” beauty supplies but no peroxide and that anyone buying large quantities would have attracted attention.
“If it’s a large quantity, I have to call my manager,” she said. Graham said most customers only buy one or two bottles.
During Thursday’s hearing, a bus station across the street from the federal courthouse where Zazi appeared was briefly evacuated after an employee in the mailroom found a suspicious package. Police cleared the station and closed four city blocks to traffic.
The bus station reopened just over an hour later, while the court proceeding was still going on. There were no immediate reports of explosives or dangerous materials found.
Meanwhile, Zazi’s father, 53-year-old Mohammed Zazi, also appeared in court Thursday on charges of lying to investigators of the terror plot.
He was released under court supervision pending an Oct. 9 hearing. The father has not been charged in the alleged bomb plot.
Mohammed Zazi will be monitored electronically, and the judge ordered Zazi to stay in his home except for work, medical care or religious services.
An eviction notice was posted this week at the Aurora apartment where the father, son and other relatives lived. Mohammed Zazi’s attorney, Edward Harris, told the judge that a new place has been found for his client to stay.
“Mr. Zazi is not a terrorist,” Harris said. “At worst, he is someone who lied to law enforcement.”
Associated Press Writers Ivan Moreno and Kristen Wyatt contributed to this report.