On the 10 hour night shift, this drops

Three Afghans arrested in US attack probe

Sun Sep 20, 5:02 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Three men of Afghan origin have been arrested for making false statements to FBI agents investigating an alleged plot to launch an attack in the United States, US officials said.

The US Justice Department said the FBI is also investigating other individuals "in the United States,Pakistan and elsewhere, relating to a plot to detonate improvised explosive devices in the United States," according to affidavits filed to support the arrests.

Najibullah Zazi, 24, and his 53-year-old father Mohammed -- both Afghan natives -- were arrested in the western US state of Colorado late Saturday, the department said in a statement. Ahmad Wais Afzali, 37, also from Afghanistan, was later arrested in New York. All three reside legally in the United States.

"Each of the defendants has been charged by criminal complaint with knowingly and willfully making false statements to the FBI in a matter involving international and domestic terrorism," the statement said.

The arrests come after raids this week in New York and Colorado and three days of voluntary questioning of Najibullah Zazi in Denver, Colorado.

"The arrests carried out tonight 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," he added.

According to US media reports this week, investigators focused on a alleged plot targeting New York.

The CNN news network, citing sources close to the investigation, reported the target was a major New York transportation hub, such as a rail or subway station. Najibullah Zazi, a bus driver in Colorado, possessed a video of New York's Grand Central Station, the network said.

US media also said authorities found 14 new black backpacks in the New York raids that fueled concern the men may have been planning to use the backpacks to carry suicide bombs.

ABC News cited unnamed authorities as saying Najibullah "Zazi brought with him instructions on how to build a bomb using household chemicals." It also reported that he had been under investigation for nearly a year prior to the raids.

In a telephone interview with Najibullah Zazi, who is a permanent US resident, reported in the Denver Post newspaper on Saturday, he denied admitting to any link to Al-Qaeda or involvement in an attack plot.

"It's not true," he told the newspaper. "I have nothing to hide. It's all media publications reporting whatever they want. They have been reporting all this nonsense."

Justice Department officials said Sunday they had intercepted a number of phone calls between Najibullah and Mohammed Zazi and Afzali on September 11, where the defendents discuss Afzali being interviewed by authorities.

Najibullah Zazi told Afzali his car had been stolen and that he feared he was being "watched", according to the affidavits cited by the department.

Afzali then allegedly asked him whether there was any "evidence in his car," to which he replied no.

In a search of Zazi's rental car in New York, where he had been visiting Afzali, officials said in the affidavits that they found a digital image of handwritten notes "regarding the manufacture and handling of initiating explosives, main explosives charges, explosives detonators and components of a fuzing system."

When asked about and shown the notes, which were found on his laptop computer, Najibullah Zazi "falsely asserted that he had never seen the document before," officials said.

In interviews with FBI agents in Denver, according to the affidavits filed with his detention, Najibullah Zazi meanwhile admitted that on a 2008 trip to Pakistan he "attended courses and received instruction on weapons and explosives at an Al-Qaeda training facility."

Najibullah Zazi, a permanent US resident, and Mohammed Zazi, a naturalized US citizen, are set to appear in a Colorado federal court on Monday.

On the same day Afzali, also a permanent US resident, is scheduled to stand before a federal court in New York.

If convicted each man faces eight years in prison.

US Senator Chuck Schumer insisted this week that the New York raids were preventive and that no terrorist attack was in its final planning stages.

"There was nothing imminent," the New York lawmaker said.