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Alleged terror plot was set for 9/11 anniversary

Najibullah Zazi (who is believed to be pictured here) and three unidentified associates bought “unusually large quantities’’ of hydrogen peroxide and acetone, according to court papers. Najibullah Zazi (who is believed to be pictured here) and three unidentified associates bought “unusually large quantities’’ of hydrogen peroxide and acetone, according to court papers. (Associated Press via Cnn)
By Ivan Moreno and P. Solomon Banda
Associated Press / September 26, 2009

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DENVER - An Afghan immigrant wanted to carry out a New York City terror attack involving hydrogen peroxide bombs to coincide with the Sept. 11 anniversary before federal authorities foiled the plan, a US prosecutor said yesterday.

Tim Neff told a federal judge that Najibullah Zazi “was in the throes of making a bomb and attempting to perfect his formulation.’’

“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,’’ Neff declared in arguing for Zazi’s transfer to New York.

Zazi was in custody in New York last night after a magistrate in Denver yesterday afternoon ordered him transferred there to face charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.

Zazi, a 24-year-old Afghan-born coffee cart owner in New York and Denver airport shuttle driver, sat expressionless during the Denver court hearing, staring at a decanter on the defense table.

Zazi’s lawyer, Arthur Folsom, argued at the hearing that Zazi should be released on bond with electronic monitoring. He said Zazi has family ties in Colorado: His parents and five siblings.

US Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer disagreed, saying Zazi had been in Colorado less than a year.

Zazi has publicly denied being a terrorist since he was arrested on Saturday and charged with lying to FBI agents during three days of voluntary interviews.

The US indictment says Zazi received explosives training from Al Qaeda and bought large quantities of hydrogen peroxide and nail-polish remover at beauty supply stores to make bombs, possibly to detonate on New York City commuter trains.

A law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday that Zazi had associates in New York who were in on the plot. Court papers say that during the summer, Zazi and three unidentified associates bought “unusually large quantities’’ of hydrogen peroxide and acetone - a flammable solvent found in nail-polish remover - from beauty supply stores in the Denver area.

Zazi - a legal US resident who immigrated in 1999 - began plotting as early as August 2008 to “use one or more weapons of mass destruction,’’ when he “and others’’ traveled from Newark, N.J., to receive explosives training in Pakistan, prosecutors said.

Within days of returning from Pakistan in early 2009, he moved to the Denver suburb of Aurora, where he used a computer to research homemade bomb ingredients and to look up beauty supply stores where he could buy them, according to prosecutors.

A second law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation said associates of Zazi visited Colorado from New York to help him buy the chemicals, using stolen credit cards to make the purchases before returning to New York.

Security video and receipts show that some of the purchases were made near a Colorado hotel, according to court papers. On Sept. 6 and 7, Zazi checked into a suite at the hotel with a kitchen and a stove, the papers say, and tried to contact an unidentified associate “seeking to correct mixtures of ingredients to make explosives.’’

On Sept. 8, court papers say, Zazi searched the Internet for home improvement stores in Queens before driving a rental car for a two-day trip to the city. The visit triggered a series of searches in Denver and New York City over the past two weeks, and netted backpacks, cell phones and a scale at a Queens home where Zazi spent the night.

Meanwhile, two men were in custody yesterday after each tried to blow up what they thought were vehicles packed with explosives outside a Texas skyscraper and an Illinois courthouse, authorities said.

The two cases were unconnected to each other and to the Zazi investigation.

Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, 19, a Jordanian who lives in Texas, appeared in court yesterday after federal officials said he parked what he thought was an explosive-laden truck in a parking garage beneath the 60-story Fountain Place office tower in Dallas.

Michael C. Finton, 29, who also went by the name Talib Islam and idolized Lindh was arrested Wednesday in Springfield, Ill., after federal officials said he attempted to detonate what he believed to be explosives in a van outside a federal courthouse in the Illinois capital.

Finton also is charged with attempting to murder federal officers or employees.