Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty to three terrorism charges in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y. today. The so-called 'Beauty Parlor Bomber,' who was caught with beauty products that could be combined into explosives, admitted that he had conspired to detonate an explosive in New York City's subway system.
Dressed in a blue jumpsuit and orange sneakers, Zazi pleaded guilty to conspiracy to detonate bombs in the subway, conspiracy to commit murder and to provide material support to terrorism. A Queens, N.Y.-raised Afghan, Zazi said he was motivated by his feelings about the Afghan war. "I would sacrifice myself to bring attention to what the U.S. military was doing to civilians in Afghanistan."
Zazi, who was arrested in Denver in September 2009, has been cooperating with the federal government, officials say, and has told them that he had planned to attack the subways close to the eighth anniversary of September 11. He said he was recruited by al Qaeda in Pakistan when he traveled there intending to join the Taliban, and had discussions with al Qaeda about "target locations" in the subways.
"There is no question the NYPD and the FBI together stopped a plot that would have really hurt this city," said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a press briefing. "When you see the charges, these guys, this was not an amateur operation. It was a very serious plot against New York City, and fortunately, the great work by the FBI and the NYPD together stopped this plot. Let us just hope they stop the next one."
"You know, some people wrote there wasn't a plot," said Bloomberg. "It turns out there was a very serious plot against this city."
"Make no mistake about it," said Bloomberg, "When you find a terrorist he's got a map of New York City in his pocket, not a map of anyplace else."
Attorney General Eric Holder will hold a press conference at 5 p.m. in Washington today "to discuss developments related to a national security matter." Holder will be joined by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Benton Campbell, and deputy FBI director John S. Pistole.
Zazi, who worked as an airport shuttle bus driver in Denver, was arrested after more than a year of surveillance by the FBI. He was caught with chemicals and a dozen 32-ounce bottles of Miss Kay's Liquid, a hydrogen peroxide-based beauty product, according to court documents. The case was transferred from Colorado to the Eastern District of New York.
Court documents say that Zazi traveled with others to Pakistan and had handwritten bomb-making instructions in his possession.
Zazi's father was indicted on February 1 on charges that he helped conceal objects that Zazi was using in his bomb-making attempts.
'We Love Death More Than You Love Life'
Two other associates of Zazi, Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay, were arrested in January following a car accident in Queens. As he drove erratically, Medunjanin was recorded saying in Arabic on a 9/11 call, "We love death more than you love life." Both men pleaded not guilty to involvement in the terror plot.
A month after the Zazi case was first disclosed in late 2009, Attorney General Holder said, "This alleged plot was one of the most serious terrorist threats to our country since September, 11 2001. As we have noted in a series of court filings, we believe that Mr. Zazi was attempting to detonate an explosive device here in the United States."
A September 24, 2009 detention memorandum filed by the Justice Department alleged that Zazi had in his possession, "Jpeg images of nine pages of handwritten notes containing formulations and instructions regarding the manufacture and handling of different kinds of explosives...the same notes were transferred onto Zazi's laptop computer in June 2009...the notes contain among other explosives, the explosive Triacetone Triperoxide ("TATP") which is the explosive used in the 2005 London train bombings and intended to be used in the 2001 "shoe bomb" plot by Richard Reid."
The detention memo notes that Zazi flew from Pakistan to JFK on January 15, 2009 on Qatar Airlines flight 83. Within days of returning from Pakistan, Zazi moved to Aurora, Colorado. The detention memo alleges that Zazi transferred the bombmaking notes onto his laptop computer in June or July 2009 and that he conducted internet searches on how to safely handle hydrochloric acid.
The detention memorandum alleged that Zazi tested his explosive mixture in an Aurora, Colorado hotel suite that contained a stove in August and early September before departing for New York City. "On September 6 and 7, 2009 Zazi rented the same suite at the same hotel in Aurora where he stayed on August 28. The hotel surveillance camera captured Zazi checking in to the hotel at 2:32 p.m. on September 6. Subsequent FBI testing for explosives and chemical residue in the suite revealed the presence of acetone residue in the vent above the stove."
The detention memo notes that Zazi worked with as many as 3 other individuals, "On September 6 and 7, Zazi attempted to communicate on multiple occasions with another individual, each communication more urgent in tone than the last seeking to correct mixtures of ingredients to make explosives. Included in the communications were requests related to flour and ghee oil...Zazi repeatedly emphasized in the communications that he needed the answers right away."
The memo also alleged that Zazi conducted internet searches in the 11354 zip code in Queens looking for home improvement stores where he could buy Muriatic acid. Zazi traveled to New York on September 9, 2009 from the Denver area and arrived in New York on September 10, 2009. As he entered New York local police stopped him on the George Washington Bridge claiming the need to search his vehicle for drugs. Zazi became suspicious further when his car was towed by police who impounded his car. Zazi departed New York on September 12 and returned back home to Denver.