NYC man: FBI asked about Denver friend in raid
Associated Press Writers
NEW YORK (AP) – Counterterrorism officials searching New York City apartments for explosives and possible links to al-Qaida operatives questioned a man extensively about his connection to a childhood friend who lives in Denver who visited last week, the man said Tuesday.
“I can’t tell” if the Denver man, who he identified as Najibullah, has al-Qaida connections, Naiz Khan said. “I don’t know if there is. I’m not sure.”
Counterterrorism officials warned police departments around the country Tuesday to be on the lookout for evidence of homemade bombs following Monday’s raids on the apartments.
The searches came after a man who was under surveillance for possible links to the terrorism network visited New York City over the weekend and then left the area, said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
Khan, an Afghanistan native who lives in one of the apartments raided by authorities, said the FBI questioned him for about two hours about his friend, whom he grew up with in New York. He saw him Thursday at a local mosque in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, and Najibullah asked to stay overnight.
“He told me, I have a problem with the coffee truck, I have some type of a permit problem. I need to sleep over, overnight in your room,” Khan said. His friend used to operate a coffee truck in the city before moving to Denver a few years ago, Khan said.
After he stayed at the apartment, Khan said he ran into Najibullah on Friday at the mosque. His friend told him his car had been stolen; Khan didn’t see him again.
FBI agents raided his home in Flushing early Monday morning, Khan said in an interview in his ransacked apartment.
Investigators issued warrants to search the residences early Monday for explosives material but did not find any, according to a person briefed on the matter who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity.
The FBI and Homeland Security intelligence warning, issued Monday to police departments, lists indicators that could tip off police to homemade hydrogen peroxide-based explosives, 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.
The notice was not intended for the public, said Justice Department spokesman Richard Kolko.
Homeland Security and the FBI have no specific information on the timing or target of any planned attack, Kolko said, but “we believe it is prudent to share information with our state and local partners about the variety of domestically available materials that could be used to create homemade explosives, which have been utilized in previous terrorist attacks.”
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Tuesday that he couldn’t comment on whether there would be any arrests or whether the raids were tied to al-Qaida.
“I think you just have to think about the sequence of events here,” Kelly told the AP. “Warrants were executed. Material was obtained during the execution of those warrants, that material is now being analyzed, and we’ll see what develops from the analysis.”
Sen. Charles Schumer said the law enforcement action Monday was unrelated to President Barack Obama’s visit to the city the same day.
“There was nothing imminent, and they are very good now at tracking potentially dangerous actions, and this was preventive,” said Schumer, D-N.Y.
Two U.S. intelligence officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly, said the target of any purported attack – or who would carry it out – remained unclear.
Authorities have not found any weapons ready for use that would indicate an attack was imminent, they said. Nevertheless, one of the officials called the threat very real and emphasized the urgency of it.
New York police spokesman Paul Browne confirmed that searches were conducted in the borough of Queens by agents of a joint terrorism task force.
Residents in the Flushing neighborhood on Monday described officers armed with search warrants swarming their immigrant neighborhood at about 2:30 a.m.
A White House spokesman said Obama, who spoke on Wall Street on Monday, had been briefed on the investigation.
The person familiar with the case said the raids were the result of previous law enforcement surveillance of people.
Associated Press writers Devlin Barrett, Eileen Sullivan, Lara Jakes and Pamela Hess in Washington and Adam Goldman and Colleen Long in New York contributed to this report.