the good fortune that Scotland Yard last year intercepted an e-mail from a senior al-Qaeda member in Pakistan to 24 year old U.S. immigrant Najibullah Zazi giving him instructions on how to carry out a suicide attack, Zazi would have set off a backpack bomb on a New York City subway during rush hour last September consigning scores of people to a horrible death. Notwithstanding the many news stories on Zazi’s arrest and trial since last September, there has been a routine, almost affectless quality about them. No strong public opinion was aroused by the near mass murder, just as there had been no strong reaction to a similar narrowly averted mass murder in the New York City subways in 1996. The story was presented in such a way that it had no meaning beyond itself, did not point to anything beyond the bare recitation of the facts of the case. And what is that “beyond”? It is the reality that we have allowed people who are religiously commanded to kill us, and to give their moral and financial support to people who kill us, to enter our country and become our fellow citizens; and they now walk about among us, a regular and familiar part of our society.
Like Zazi himself. Here he is, just your average, normal Mideastern immigrant in this land of immigrants, a strapping young fellow in a plaid shirt, striding through the Colorado sunshine … on his way to speak to FBI agents in Denver last September.
During the spring and summer of 2008, Zazi conspired with others in Queens, New York, to travel to Afghanistan to join the Taliban and fight against the U.S. military and its allies. On August 28, 2008, they flew from New York to Peshawar, Pakistan, a city just east of Pakistan’s volatile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (the FATA). The Center for Strategic and International Studies describes the FATA as:
ground zero in the U.S. Jihadist war, and home to many al-Qaeda operatives, especially the numerous foreigners from the Arab world, Central Asia Muslim areas of the Far East, and even Europe who flock to this war zone for training indoctrination.
While there, they were recruited by al-Qaeda, instead, and taken to a training camp in Waziristan, where they received training on several kinds of weapons. Al-Qaeda leaders asked them to return to the U.S. and conduct a suicide bombing martyrdom operation, and they agreed to do so. Later, he received additional training at the camp on explosives construction for an attack in the U.S., or to carry out a martyrdom operation. He took lengthy notes and emailed them to himself, so he could access them upon his return to the U.S. Al-Qaeda leaders also discussed target locations with Zazi, such as New York City subways. He gave money and computers to al-Qaeda before leaving Pakistan.
On January 15, 2009, Zazi returned to the U.S. Within days of his return, he moved to Aurora, Colorado, in the Denver suburbs, to live with his aunt and uncle…. He lived with his aunt and uncle until July 2009, when his uncle kicked him out for not paying rent. His parents moved to Aurora from New York, and the three took a residence together.
Beginning around June 2009, he accessed his bomb-making notes, and began researching where to find ingredients for the explosives. He also conducted several internet searches for hydrochloric acid. He then used his bomb-making notes to construct an explosive for the detonators. The explosive was hydrogen peroxide. He took trips to New York, meeting with others to discuss the plan, the attack’s timing, and where to make the explosives.
Over the course of several months, the FBI listened to Zazi’s phone conversations. In August 2009, the FBI overheard him speaking about mixing chemical substances. It learned that in July and August 2009 he and his three associates were buying large quantities of hydrogen peroxide and acetone products from beauty supply stores around Denver, Colorado. Security videos from a beauty shop showed Zazi pushing a cart full of hydrogen peroxide.
He checked into an Aurora motel suite on August 28 and on September 6 and 7, to experiment with heating chemicals that could create a bomb in his room’s kitchenette. Authorities examined the kitchenette, and discovered traces of acetone, found in nail polish remover.
Hydrogen peroxide, acetone, and acid, readily available in beauty supply stores, are components used in Triacetone triperoxide (TATP; also known as acetone peroxide)-based deadly bombs. TATP was also used in the 2005 London subway bombings, and by Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber”.
Zazi drove from Denver to New York City on September 9 and 10, 2009.
On September 9, 2009, he began a 1,800 miles drive in a rented car from Denver to New York. with the detonator explosive and other materials necessary to build bombs. Agents followed him.
The day after he left Denver, two New York City Police Department Intelligence Division detectives asked imam Ahmad Wais Afzali, a Muslim cleric whom they had developed as an informant, to identify and provide information with regard to four individuals whose photographs they showed him. Afzali identified Zazi, who had prayed at Afzali’s mosque, and two of the other three photos. One law enforcement official said the police department had been specifically asked not to reveal the investigation to its informants, but went ahead anyway.
Zazi arrived in New York City on the afternoon of September 10, and spent the night at the residence of his childhood friend Naiz Kahn in Flushing, Queens. He intended to obtain and assemble the remaining components to build a bomb over the weekend.
The plan was, as soon as the material was ready, for him and two high school friends to conduct coordinated suicide bombings on New York City subway lines near Grand Central Station in Manhattan during rush hour. Zazi and his friends intended to obtain and assemble the remaining components of the bombs, and conduct the attack on September 14, 15, or 16, 2009.
Georgetown University professor and terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman characterized the plot as representing a “new magnitude” of threat to the U.S. that, if carried out, could have “eclipsed” the 2004 Madrid train bombings, which killed almost 200 people.
According to TIME, authorities believe Zazi was possibly planning an attack using back-pack bombs, as previously used in the Madrid and London subway bombings.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the plot had been uncovered by Scotland Yard, which intercepted an e-mail from a senior al-Qaeda member in Pakistan to Zazi, instructing him how to implement his attack. The e-mail was intercepted as part of “Operation Pathway”. Scotland Yard notified the FBI, which led to the operation that resulted in his arrest.
On September 10, as he crossed the George Washington Bridge headed for New York City, he was pulled over by Port Authority Police, acting at the FBI’s request, for what he was told was a routine random drug search, and his car was searched. They did not find anything of note, and he was allowed to go. Afzali’s lawyer later wrote the court: “Even though is not the brightest bulb in the terrorist chandelier, the thinly-transparent ruse of a ‘random’ checkpoint stop did not fool him.”
On September 11, Afzali called Zazi’s father. Zazi’s father then spoke with Zazi, told him that “they” had shown Afzali his photos and photos of others, said Afzali would call him and he should speak with him as soon as possible, and added “So, before anything else, speak with . See if you need to go to or to make … yourself aware, hire an attorney.” Afzali called Zazi, and told him that the authorities had asked him about “you guys.” He also asked Zazi for the telephone number of one of the other men whose photos he had been shown, and set up a meeting with him.
Later that day, Zazi’s rental car was towed due to a parking violation, and was searched. Agents found a laptop with a jpeg image of nine handwritten pages on how to make initiating explosives, main explosive charges, detonators, and fuses. The FBI asserted the nine pages of handwritten notes were in Zazi’s handwriting.
Zazi called Afzali, said his car had been stolen and he feared he was being “watched”, and that the people watching him took his car. Afzali asked if there was any “evidence” in the car, and Zazi said no.
Zazi realized that law enforcement was investigating him. At that point, he and his colleagues threw away the detonator explosives and other materials.
On September 12, Zazi flew back to Denver. FBI agents searched several homes in New York on September 14, and found his fingerprints on an electronic scale and several AA batteries at the home he had stayed at in Queens, as well as a dozen black backpacks. An alert was issued to American law enforcement officials to be on the lookout for hydrogen peroxide-based bombs.
On September 16, Zazi voluntarily appeared and was interviewed by members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force at the Denver FBI offices in the presence of his lawyer. During his eight-hour interview, he denied knowing anything about the nine-page handwritten document found on his hard drive, and speculated he must have accidentally downloaded it in August as part of a religious book which he had downloaded and later deleted. In subsequent interviews on September 17 and 18, however, he acknowledged receiving explosives and weapons training in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
On September 19, 2009, authorities arrested Zazi, and on September 21 they charged him in the District of Colorado with making false statements in a matter involving international and domestic terrorism.
New charges and allegations were filed against Zazi in the Eastern District of New York on September 23, 2009, and the prior charges dropped. A federal grand jury there returned an indictment charging him with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.
Zazi is being held as a federal inmate (registration # 36553-013) at the Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn. He is being held without bail, and is scheduled to be sentenced June 25.
[end of Wikipedia excerpt]
in federal court in Brooklyn to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit murder, and providing material support to a foreign terror organization.