Thursday, September 24, 2009
Terror suspect Najibullah Zazi has been indicted on a charge of trying to detonate bombs in the United States, law enforcement authorities said Thursday.
Zazi is to appear in court in Denver on a count of lying to terrorism investigators. The new charge of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction was filed in New York.
Court documents charge that in July and August, Zazi and associates in Denver purchased large quantities of chemicals that could be used to make bombs.
Authorities plan to transfer him to the federal court in Brooklyn to face the new charge.
Zazi has publicly denied any terrorist plotting. Counterterrorism agents fear he and others may have been planning to detonate homemade bombs on New York City commuter trains.
Zazi, his father Mohammed, and an imam from Queens, N.Y., named Ahmad Afzali were arrested on charges of lying to federal authorities. But until Thursday, he had not been charged with a terrorism offense.
"The reality is the FBI is still trying to figure out what is at play here in the homeland," Juan Zarate, a terrorism expert and former deputy national security adviser, said before the indictment was announced.
Intelligence officials think this could be the most serious terrorism threat the country has faced since Sept. 11, 2001. Zazi says he isn't a terrorist, but officials close to the case tell NPR he was caught on a wiretap talking to key al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan who appear to have been directing this plot.
The Justice Department says officials found nine pages of notes on bomb-making in Zazi's handwriting. After searching a New York apartment where Zazi had been staying, police also allegedly found bomb-making manuals, backpacks and cell phones with Zazi's fingerprints.
Officials close to the case tell NPR that investigators are tracking nearly two dozen people in Denver and New York. The chief concern now is that Zazi used his expertise to build bombs and that the explosives are out there but they haven't found them yet.