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FBI Raids Two Denver Area Homes in Terror Probe
As the two homes in question are both less than 10 miles from my house, this has me a bit spooked.
FBI Raids Two Denver Area Homes in Terror Probe
2 Aurora Homes Raided in Terror Probe; Man Questioned
By Bruce Finley, Tom McGhee and Kevin Vaughan
The Denver Post
Federal investigators released an Aurora man late Wednesday night after 8 1/2 hours of questioning in connection with a multi-state anti-terrorism investigation.
Najibullah Zazi, 24, left the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building after 10:30 p.m. — but is scheduled to return this afternoon for another round of questioning, according to his attorney, Art Folsom.
The move came after a day that saw federal agents raid Zazi's apartment and a house where his aunt and uncle live. Agents clad in white "clean suits" and others using dogs executed search warrants on the residences, the latest move in an investigation that has centered on a plot involving peroxide- based explosives.
"If they found so much as a gram of explosives there, then Mr. Zazi would not be leaving the FBI offices with me tonight," Folsom told The Denver Post and 9News late Wednesday night.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force carried out the searches beginning at 2 p.m. FBI agents in SUVs swooped down on the southeast Aurora apartment of Zazi and searched inside for several hours. At the same time, other agents converged on the nearby home.
Denver FBI spokeswoman Kathleen Wright would not disclose specifics about what agents were looking for or what led them to scrutinize Zazi.
Folsom said late Wednesday that Zazi had answered all of the FBI's questions except one.
"The one I asked him not to answer was just because I'm an overprotective lawyer," Folsom said. "I didn't know the answer, and I didn't want to find out sitting there."
He said Zazi may answer that question when he returns today.
Copies of the warrants were not available, and law-enforcement officials across the country remained mum on the case. Multiple news organizations, citing anonymous sources, have reported that the case is focused on possible al-Qaeda- linked individuals and a bombmaking plot. Sources told The Associated Press that officials put Zazi under surveillance as part of the investigation.
Folsom said Zazi went into the meeting voluntarily in an effort to "get the air cleared."
He said the FBI questioned Zazi about a recent trip to New York City — one that apparently spurred authorities to conduct raids on three homes in Queens — and also took handwriting samples and fingerprints, and swabbed the inside of Zazi's mouth for a DNA sample.
Zazi returned to his residence, accompanied by an older man and two woman, at about 11:40 p.m.
"I am so tired . . . I can't comment," he told reporters.
Federal officials stepped up their investigation after Zazi rented a car Sept. 9 in Colorado and drove to New York. He said he was traveling there to deal with an issue over a coffee cart that his family owns in Manhattan. While he was in New York, police stopped him on a bridge leading into the city and searched the rental car and his laptop computer. Police later towed his car, and Zazi said he suspected he was being watched.
Zazi flew back to Colorado and learned about the raids in Queens after friends called him.
"Guilt by association"
Folsom said the investigation is a case of "wrong place at wrong time, plus a little guilt by association." Folsom said he inferred from Wednesday's interview that one of the people Zazi contacted in New York is being investigated by the FBI.
"If he stayed at somebody else's house last week, his life would be a whole lot simpler," he said.
Najibullah's father repeated his assertion Wednesday that his son had done nothing wrong.
"If I saw anything wrong with my son, I'm going to stop him, and I'm going to say something," Mohammed Zazi said.
Najibullah Zazi's uncle, Naquib Jaji, whose house agents also searched Wednesday, said he believes his nephew is innocent. But he has become frustrated in pressing for answers to his questions: " 'Why would you rent a car on 9/11? And drive to New York?' He said he wanted to see the countryside. I said, 'What the hell is wrong with you? . . . What are you doing renting a car to go to New York on 9/11?' "
Wednesday's searches also unsettled the quiet suburban neighborhoods where they took place. Shortly after arriving at Zazi's apartment on Smoky Hill Road near E-470, authorities cordoned off the complex's parking lot with police tape and evacuated the apartment building and an adjacent building.
After a couple of hours, residents were allowed to return.
At Jaji's house on East Ontario Drive, neighbors gathered in front of the home as authorities worked beneath a fly tent wrapped in blue tarps. Eight children were put in a red van and led away.
Jaji said Tuesday that Zazi lived at the house briefly before moving to the apartment on Smoky Hill Road.
Neighbor Barbie Christenson said there were always a lot of people in the house on Ontario but that they kept to themselves.
"They wouldn't make eye contact with you," she said.
She noticed many cars at the house, saying it appeared they held meetings there on a regular basis.
In the past week, Christenson said she noticed a man with a mustache and sunglasses parked in a dark sedan on the street watching the house.
9News reported that in addition to the two residence searches, FBI agents have been going to local Home Depots to look through receipts for purchases of large quantities of chemicals that can be used to make explosives.
A wife in Pakistan
Zazi was born in Afghanistan. His parents moved to the United States when he was a boy after the Soviets occupied their country in 1979. Folsom said Zazi followed them here as a teenager.
Zazi's wife lives in Pakistan, and Folsom said Zazi hopes to bring her to live in America shortly. He is eligible to apply for citizenship in one month and plans to do so, Folsom said.
"Maybe it's just me," Folsom said, "but I don't think if I was looking at America, American culture and American society as a cancer on the world that I would move into the middle of it."
Staff writers Joey Bunch, John Ingold, Kirk Mitchell and Kieran Nicholson contributed to this report.