Source: The New York Times
NEW YORK -- The Afghan immigrant at the center of what authorities described as one of the most serious threats to the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks pleaded guilty Monday to terrorism charges in what he said was an al-Qaida plot to detonate a bomb in the New York City subway.
Mr. Zazi, 25, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn to charges that included conspiracies to use weapons of mass destruction and to commit murder in a foreign country, and to providing material support for a terrorist organization. Mr. Zazi is scheduled to be sentenced June 25, when he faces a possible sentence of life in prison.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference in Washington, D.C., that the Zazi case represented one of the most serious threats to the United States since the 9/11 attacks.
Throughout the 45-minute proceeding Monday, Mr. Zazi seemed unaffected by his circumstances, even smiling through his dark beard on several occasions. And when he spoke, he did so in an unapologetic, matter-of-fact manner, explaining that he was driven to terrorism by his concerns about the U.S. military's actions in Afghanistan.
In recent weeks, Mr. Zazi -- who was born in Afghanistan, raised in Pakistan and later attended high school in Queens -- had begun providing information to prosecutors as part of the initial stages of an agreement that led to his guilty plea Monday, according to two people with knowledge of the case.
There have been additional arrests in the case, including his father, his uncle and two Flushing High School classmates. Mr. Zazi agreed to cooperate in part out of concern that a widening inquiry would result in more charges against his family, including his mother, said one person involved in the case.
The 10-page plea agreement was sealed by Judge Raymond J. Dearie, but the arrangement suggested that prosecutors believe that Mr. Zazi can be a valuable source of information.
On its own, though, the guilty plea marks the successful prosecution of a terrorist in an advanced plot in which explosive materials similar to those used in the 2005 London subway and bus attacks were actually brought into New York. In some other terror cases, plotters appeared to lack the materials or knowledge to make good on their threats.
Mr. Zazi said he decided to go with friends to Pakistan in August 2008 to join the Taliban in fighting the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan. While in Pakistan, he received training in making bombs, and was persuaded by al-Qaida operatives to return to the United States to be a suicide bomber.
After his return from Pakistan, he soon moved to Colorado, where he worked as an airport shuttle bus driver and began assembling the raw materials, including beauty products, for a bomb. Mr. Zazi said he drove Sept. 10 to New York with some explosives. He said he planned to set off the bombs in Manhattan subway lines as soon as they were ready.
When he suspected he was under surveillance -- his vehicle had been stopped while he drove across the George Washington Bridge -- he decided to abort the operation, dumping out some of his homemade explosives and flying back to Colorado, where he was arrested Sept. 19.
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