Key figure in terrorism probe meets with lawyers
Associated Press Writer
DENVER – Najibullah Zazi, the Colorado man at the center of a national terror probe, met with his attorneys Wednesday to prepare for a federal court hearing in which prosecutors will argue that he remain in custody for allegedly lying to U.S. agents.
Preparations for the hearing happened as hundreds of investigators have questioned more residents of a New York City neighborhood raided last week following a 1,600-mile overnight trip there by Zazi on the eve of the Sept. 11 attacks anniversary.
In court documents, FBI agents said Zazi lied about the origin of bomb-making instructions authorities found in his laptop computer. He was arrested Saturday after voluntarily answering questions from the FBI for three days.
Zazi has denied to reporters any links to terrorism or to al-Qaida. Federal investigators allege Zazi, a 24-year-old permanent U.S. resident, underwent training at an al-Qaida camp in Pakistan last year.
Authorities have yet to detail any specific terror plot. The charge against Zazi, a native of Afghanistan, is widely considered a holding charge while U.S. officials continue their investigation.
Authorities in New York and Washington say Zazi might have been plotting with others to detonate backpack bombs on New York trains in a scheme similar to attacks on the London subway and Madrid’s rail system in 2005 and 2004, respectively. Backpacks and cell phones were seized in raids on apartments Zazi visited in New York.
A law enforcement official familiar with the probe told The Associated Press on Wednesday that investigators are re-interviewing people already questioned in Queens. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Zazi is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer on Thursday. His attorney, Arthur Folsom, has said that classified evidence collected by U.S. officials could force a postponement of proceedings.
Some of the evidence against Zazi includes recorded phone conversations obtained through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows for secret wiretapping for national security reasons.
In an arrest affidavit, FBI officials said Zazi was under surveillance when he rented a car in Colorado and headed for New York on Sept. 9, arriving there the next day. While there, his car was towed and searched, leading to the discovery of images of handwritten bomb-making instructions on his laptop.
Zazi’s father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, 53, was arrested for allegedly lying to investigators about phone calls with a Zazi associate in New York, Ahmad Wais Afzali, who also faces the same charge.
The elder Zazi is expected to be released on $50,000 bail after his hearing Thursday.
The owners of the apartment where Zazi and his father live posted an eviction notice ordering them to leave by Oct. 3 or face court action, The Denver Post reported Wednesday.
The owners declined comment. A worker on the grounds told the Post he put up the notice because people whose names weren’t on the Zazi lease were living in the apartment.
Wendy Aiello, a spokeswoman for Folsom, said she was unaware of the notice.
Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Ken Deal said he could not comment on any effect an eviction might have on Mohammed Zazi’s release. The elder Zazi’s federal public defender, Edward Robin Harris, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report from New York and Washington, respectively.