By MEREDITH TRAINA
September 20, 2009
DENVER, CO. (WPIX)
Authorities arrested Najibullah Zazi late Saturday, following three days of FBI questioning. Also in custody: his father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, 53, of Denver; and Ahmad Wais Afzali, 37, of Queens, N.Y.
They're expected in court Monday.
Zazi has repeatedly denied any involvement with al-Qaeda, or an alleged terror plot. But, U.S. intelligence officials said Friday he has a direct connection to the terrorist organization. Authorities say Zazi played a crucial role in an overseas terror attack, though it was not immediately clear who or what were his intended targets. Investigators suspect the men plotted to detonate explosives here in the U.S.
According to the New York Daily News, investigators spent several hours this week at a U-Haul in Queens, examining an attempt by some men to rent a large truck. The lot manager told the paper he didn't rent them the truck, since they didn't have a valid credit card.
A U-Haul worker identified one of the men involved as Naiz Khan, an Afghan immigrant in Queens, who knew Zazi; he's also been questioned by the Feds. Kahn denied any involvement, telling reporters: "I've never been to that U-Haul."
The FBI will continue its investigation into other individuals here and in and Pakistan. "The arrests carried out (Saturday) are part of an ongoing and fast-paced investigation," said David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security. "It is important to note that we have no specific information regarding the timing, location or target of any planned attack."
Authorities got suspicious after Zazi rented a car and drove from Denver to New York, arriving in Manhattan Sept. 10. Affidavits show the FBI searched his rental car and laptop, and listened in on telephone conversations, upon his arrival in New York. His laptop reportedly had nine pages of handwritten notes about how to build explosives and detonators.
When asked about the notes, Zazi told federal agents he knew nothing about them, and they must've been downloaded by mistake. He claimed he deleted the notes a few days after realizing they discussed jihad, the court papers said.
The FBI believes Zazi received the notes via e-mail. Images of the notes were found in two different e-mail accounts with similar passwords.
FBI agents also intercepted a phone conversation around Sept. 11 in which Afzali -- also a legal resident of Afghanistan -- told Zazi he had spoken with authorities. "I was exposed to something yesterday from the authorities. And they came to ask me about your characters. They asked me about you guys," Afzali told Zazi, according to the affidavit.
Afzali allegedly lied to agents about that conversation.
As for Zazi's father, he denied knowing anyone by the name of Afzali. Meanwhile, the FBI said it wiretapped a conversation between Mohammed Zazi and Afzali during Najibullah Zazi's visit to New York.
Zazi didn't show for a fourth day of questioning by the FBI, Saturday at the Federal Building in Denver. A spokeswoman for his defense team told The Denver Post there would be no meeting. According to the New York Post, Zazi and his attorney, Arthur Folsom, said they decided on a postponement "given the progress of negotiations so far."
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