Published September 18, 2009
The Colorado man under FBI investigation into an alleged New York subway terror plot has admitted he has ties to Al Qaeda and is in negotiations to plead guilty to a terror charge, a source at the Department of Justice told FOX News.
The source said 24-year-old Najibullah Zazi, who until now had protested that he had no connection to Al Qaeda, changed his story Friday. Zazi reportedly told officials that he had received explosives training and may plead guilty as part of a deal to cooperate with the government.
A senior intelligence official in Washington told The Associated Press that Zazi has indicated that he is directly linked with Al Qaeda. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss intelligence matters, said Zazi played a crucial role in an intended terrorist attack but that it was not immediately clear what the targets were.
The official went on to say that the plot was being directed from outside the United States.
Zazi had submitted to two eight-hour interrogations, Wednesday and Thursday, at the FBI offices in Denver, and he was called back for further questioning Friday.
The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force went through Zazi's home, as well as the nearby residence of his aunt, Rabia Zazi. The searches are part of a terrorism investigation that fed fears of a possible subway bomb plot and led to several police raids Monday in New York City.
Authorities have not said what they found and have made no public statements on the investigation. Officials in both New York and Colorado have said they knew of no specific threat.
Zazi, who authorities suspect of training at a Pakistani terror camp, reportedly had bomb-making diagrams on a computer that he carried with him on a visit to New York. Zazi's attorney had denied these allegations.
His defense team said Friday that FBI agents also will question Zazi's father, though the FBI didnt't say why it wanted to talk to him.
Najibullah Zazi hasn't been arrested, and his attorney, Arthur Folsom, says he doesn't expect him to be. He said his client has never met with al-Qaida operatives and isn't involved in terrorism.
"He's simply somebody who was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Folsom said Thursday.
Folsom told The Denver Post the agents aren't repeating questions to Zazi but are asking different things.
"They are going through things — the best I can describe it is chronologically. Covering all the bases," Folsum said.
Najibullah Zazi is a driver for an airport shuttle service in Denver. Authorities say he rented a car and drove from Denver to New York, crossing into Manhattan the day before the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.
He was stopped in what was described as a routine stop at the George Washington Bridge before he was allowed to go free.
A relative said Zazi drove because he wanted to see the American countryside. Zazi said he went to New York to resolve some issues with a coffee cart he owns in Manhattan, but officials suspected that something more sinister might have been in the works.
FBI agents and police officers with search warrants seeking bomb materials searched three apartments and questioned residents in the neighborhood in Queens where he was staying.
A joint FBI-New York Police Department task force feared Zazi may be involved in a potential plot involving hydrogen peroxide-based explosives like those cited in an intelligence warning issued Monday, said two other law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the investigation.
Folsom said Zazi was born in Afghanistan in 1985, moved to Pakistan at age 7 and emigrated to the United States in 1999. Zazi's aunt had said earlier that he was born in Pakistan and grew up in Queens, New York City.
Folsom said Zazi has returned to Pakistan four times in recent years: in 2004 because his grandfather was sick and dying, in 2006 to get married, and in 2007 and 2008 to visit his wife.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.