Denver An Afghan immigrant was on the verge of unleashing a terrorist attack on New York City on the Sept. 11 anniversary but was scared off after drawing suspicion from police, prosecutors said Friday as they provided new details about how far along the plot was.
Najibullah Zazi, 24, was stopped by police on Sept. 10 as he entered the city, and he dropped his plans for an attack once he realized that law enforcement was onto him.
Zazi was sent to New York on Friday by federal marshals to face charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in a plot law enforcement has said was focused on blowing up commuter trains.
“The evidence suggests a chilling, disturbing sequence of events showing the defendant was intent on making a bomb and being in New York on 9/11, for purposes of perhaps using such items,” federal prosecutor Tim Neff told a judge in arguing for Zazi’s transfer to New York.
Prosecutors said Zazi received explosives training from al-Qaida in Pakistan and returned to the U.S. bent on building a bomb.
Over the summer, he and three associates went from one beauty-supply store to another in a Denver suburb buying chemicals to make explosives like those that killed dozens of people in transit bombings in London and Madrid, investigators said.
At least three and possibly more of his accomplices remain at large, and investigators have been fanning out across New York in pursuit of suspects. Authorities have also issued a flurry of terrorism warnings for sports complexes, hotels and transit systems.
A law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation said associates of Zazi visited Colorado to help him buy the chemicals using stolen credit cards before returning to New York.
Another law enforcement official said that authorities had been especially worried about Zazi’s Sept. 10 visit to the city because it coincided with a visit by President Barack Obama. Police considered arresting him right away. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation continues.
Police have been especially active in the neighborhood in Queens where Zazi visited during his New York trip, staying at an apartment with a group of cab drivers and food cart operators he knows.