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A 24-year-old Colorado airport shuttle driver and his father were arrested on formal charges of making false statements to federal agents in an ongoing terror investigation. A third man was arrested in New York City on the same charges, the Justice Department said Sunday.
Najibullah Zazi and his father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, 53, were arrested by federal agents late Saturday at their suburban Denver homes. Ahmad Wais Afzali, 37, of Flushing, New York, also was arrested, the Justice Department said.
Authorities say Afzali and the 24-year-old Zazi are legal permanent residents from Afghanistan, and the elder Zazi is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan.
Each was charged with knowingly and willfully making false statements to the FBI "in a matter involving international and domestic terrorism," the department said in a statement. It emphasized authorities don't know the timing or location of any planned attack.
The FBI is investigating several individuals in the United States, Pakistan and elsewhere in an alleged plot to detonate explosive devices in the United States, the Justice Department said.
In supporting documents filed with the court, federal investigators say a Sept. 11 search of Zazi's rental car in New York turned up a laptop computer that contained an image of nine pages of handwritten notes. Those notes included formulas and instructions about how to build explosives, detonators and other components of a fusing circuit, according to the affidavits.
Zazi was asked about the notes during FBI interviews last week and said he knew nothing about them, the documents said.
When asked about the handwritten notes allegedly found on his computer, Zazi allegedly told federal agents he hadn't written them and that he must have unintentionally downloaded it along with a religious book he downloaded in August. He said he deleted it within a few days after realizing it discussed jihad, the affidavit said.
The FBI's court filings also say Zazi admitted to FBI agents last week that in 2008 he received al-Qaida weapons and explosives training at an al-Qaida training facility in Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan.
Zazi has repeatedly denied any connection to al-Qaida or to a purported terrorist plot.
Authorities say Zazi rented a car and drove from Denver to New York, crossing into Manhattan on Sept. 10. Zazi said he went to New York to resolve some issues with a coffee cart he owns in Manhattan, then flew home to Denver.
On Monday, FBI agents and police officers with search warrants seeking bomb materials searched three apartments and questioned residents in the Queens neighborhood where Zazi stayed.
A joint FBI-New York Police Department task force feared Zazi may have been involved in a potential plot involving hydrogen peroxide-based explosives like those cited in an intelligence warning issued Monday, according to two other law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the investigation.
Zazi's attorney, Art Folsom, has repeatedly denied any such claims.
The Justice Department claims Afzali told Najibullah that he had been interviewed by law enforcement but denied it when later questioned by FBI agents on Thursday. It also claims Afzali denied telling Zazi that they were being watched.
An arrest warrant affidavit says FBI agents intercepted a phone conversation around Sept. 11 in which Afzali told the younger Zazi that he had spoken with authorities. "I was exposed to something yesterday from the authorities. And they came to ask me about your characters. They asked me about you guys," Afzali told Zazi, according to the affidavit.
However Afzali allegedly lied to authorities about that conversation when federal agents asked him about it Thursday, according to the affidavit.
The department says Mohammed Zazi, who was interviewed last week by the FBI, lied when asked if he knew anyone by the name of Afzali and said he didn't. The FBI said it had wiretapped a conversation between Mohammed Zazi and Afzali during Najibullah Zazi's visit to New York.
Wendy Aiello, a spokeswoman for Zazi's defense team, says Zazi and his father were taken to FBI headquarters in Denver. Folsom, Zazi's attorney, met the father and son there late Saturday.
The Zazis were scheduled to appear in federal court in Denver on Monday, the Justice Department said. Afzali was to appear Monday in federal court in the Eastern District of New York.
If convicted, each would face eight years in prison.
Zazi had been scheduled to go to the Federal Building in Denver on Saturday for a fourth straight day of FBI questioning. However, the meeting was canceled so Zazi could meet with his attorney, Aiello said.
A senior U.S. intelligence official in Washington told The Associated Press Friday that Zazi has indicated that he is directly linked with al-Qaida. 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.
Folsom dismissed the official's remark, calling it "rumor." Folsom also said Zazi never met with al-Qaida operatives and isn't involved in terrorism.
Another official familiar with the investigation told the AP on Thursday that Zazi had contact with a known al-Qaida associate. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, would not provide details on the location or nature of the encounter.
The official said agents have been monitoring Zazi and four others in Colorado as part of a terrorism investigation.
FBI agents in Denver questioned Mohammed Zazi on Friday about his son's background, said attorney Armstrong Graham.
The FBI has searched Zazi's apartment and his uncle and aunt's home in suburban Denver. Authorities have not said what they found there.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday that the FBI was "working this case around the clock" in New York, Denver and other parts of the country but that there was no imminent threat.
Zazi was born in Afghanistan in 1985, moved to Pakistan at age 7 and emigrated to the United States in 1999. He returned to Pakistan in 2007 and 2008 to visit his wife, Folsom said.
This program aired on September 20, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.
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