Terrorist arrested in 2009 to be sentenced in conspiracy to set off bombs across US
By KIRK MITCHELL | The Denver Post | Published: April 23, 2019
DENVER (Tribune News Service) — A former Denver International Airport shuttle driver arrested in Aurora in 2009 for his role in al-Qaida terror plots to blow up baseball or football stadiums will be sentenced Tuesday afternoon in federal court in New York.
Najibullah “Salahuddin” Zazi, 34, faces up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine after being convicted of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, according to court records.
Zazi was arrested in September 2009 in his home in Aurora. He agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors to avoid some terrorism-related charges, including some in connection with a conspiracy to kill allied military forces in Afghanistan and a conspiracy to build improvised explosive devices in the U.S., according to a plea agreement he signed Feb. 22, 2010.
During a September 2009 phone interview between a Denver Post reporter and Zazi, he denied links to al-Qaida or being involved in a terror plot. “They have been reporting all this nonsense,” Zazi said.
But Zazi since has admitted to al-Qaida ties and receiving insurgency training in Pakistan. Zazi had researched baseball and football stadiums and sites used in a Fashion Week event in New York City as terror targets, court documents said.
Zazi has testified against eight co-defendants, including Abid Naseer, who was convicted of terrorism charges in 2015 in New York.
“This investigation involved leads from the streets of Manchester, England, to New York City, to Osama Bin Laden’s hidden lair in Pakistan,” former New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton said at the time.
The terrorists had come within days of attacking a busy shopping mall in Manchester in April 2009. They also had targeted the New York City subway system and a newspaper office in Copenhagen, Denmark, under the direction and coordination of senior al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan, according to a 2015 U.S. Justice Department news release following Naseer’s conviction.
Investigators searching Zazi’s laptop computer discovered notes for making the explosive triacetone triperoxide, the same chemical used in the 2005 London train bombings, according to Zazi’s arrest affidavit.
Zazi had purchased unusually large quantities of the bomb-making materials hydrogen peroxide and acetone from beauty supply stores in the Denver metro area, the affidavit said.
Federal agents obtained surveillance video from beauty stores of Zazi buying 12 32-ounce bottles of “Ms. K Liquid 40 volume,” which is a hydrogen peroxide-based product, the affidavit said. Zazi sent urgent messages in September 2009 to a co-conspirator seeking correct mixtures of ingredients to make explosives in an Aurora motel, which had a kitchen stove burner, it said.
“Zazi repeatedly emphasized in the communications that he needed the answers right away,” the affidavit said.