New York Subway Bomb Plotter Breaks Down on Witness Stand

PHOTO: In this courtroom sketch, Najibullah Zazi testifies in the terror trial of Adis Medunjanin, accused in a foiled plot to attack New York City subways, in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, April, 18, 2012.Elizabeth Williams/AP Photo
In this courtroom sketch, Najibullah Zazi testifies in the terror trial of Adis Medunjanin, accused in a foiled plot to attack New York City subways, in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, April, 18, 2012.

Najibullah Zazi, the admitted ring leader of a 2009 plot to bomb the New York City subway, broke down in tears Thursday, during his third day of testimony against his alleged co-conspirator.

When asked by the prosecutor if he still considered defendant Adis Medunjanin a good friend, Zazi began to cry, and said, "I love him." Zazi's tears became sobs when he was asked if he believed Medunjanin intended to carry out the suicide bombings. Zazi hung his head, and after a short pause, whispered, "yes."

Zazi told a jury Wednesday that his purpose in coming to New York was to construct a "martyrdom operation." Zazi, 26, was raised by Afghan parents in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. He moved to Queens, New York as a teen, where he met Medunjanin, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Bosnia.

Medunjanin has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder abroad, and of providing material support to a terrorist organization. He faces a life sentence if convicted.

A third conspirator, Zarean Ahmedzay, 27, who pled guilty to a role in the plot two years ago, testified Monday. All three of the Muslim men, who attended high school together in Queens, were "very close friends," said Zazi. Wednesday marked the first time Zazi, the central figure in the failed subway bombings, has described the plot in detail publicly, telling the jury he became radicalized after listening to jihad-promoting audio recordings.

In 2008, Zazi testified, the three men traveled to an al Qaeda compound in Pakistan where they received terror training, learning to fire pistols, AK-47 machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. Zazi said they were also instructed on how to make bombs using household materials. "It was very simple, and they're everywhere," he said of the chemicals, which include nail polish remover and hydrogen peroxide.

It was during this time in Pakistan, Zazi said, that the three men, along with a top al Qaeda fugitive known as "Hamad," devised what authorities have deemed one of the most serious terror plots since the Sept. 11 attacks. Zazi told the jury the men considered other targets, such as the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square, and an unspecified Wal-Mart store, but eventually decided to target the subway because "it's the heart of everything in New York City," Zazi said.

Zazi said the men drew inspiration from videos of the July 2005 London metro bombings. "That was a very big achievement, achievement through hitting the United Kingdom economically," Zazi said.

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Before the three men returned to the U.S., Zazi took handwritten notes on bomb making and scanned them into his e-mail, evidence that was introduced in court. Later e-mails show Zazi corresponding with one of his al Qaeda handlers to get the exact formula for completing the bombs. "[P]lez reply to what i asked u right away. the marrige is ready," Zazi wrote.

After leaving Pakistan, Zazi relocated to Denver, where he lived with relatives and took a job as an airport shuttle driver. Zazi later used the shuttle to carry his lethal chemicals.

Zazi Arrested in Denver

During the summer of 2009, Zazi traveled to New York to meet with his conspirators, telling the jury, "We talked about if we were still into the plan. Zarein and Adis said 'yes.'"

The three men decided on suicide bombings at three different Manhattan subway locations during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to Zazi. He testified that the men specifically targeted trains leaving Grand Central Terminal at rush hour in order to maximize the death toll. We hoped that "people would have a lot of fear," Zazi said.

Zazi then returned to Denver, where he rented a hotel suite and began mixing the chemicals necessary to carry out his terrorism plot, creating what he said was enough for three bombs. Once completed Zazi rented a car, loaded in the deadly chemicals, and drove to New York.

However, earlier e-mails he had sent to his al Qaeda handler had been intercepted by the F.B.I, and by the time Zazi reached the George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey and Manhattan, counterterrorism investigators were waiting for him.

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Police followed his car and Zazi, realizing he was under surveillance, stopped at a Queens mosque and threw away the chemicals, goggles, and other bombmaking materials. Ahmedzay flushed some chemicals down the toilet, Zazi added.

He flew back to Denver, where he was contacted by the F.B.I and later arrested.

Zazi's guilty plea was part of a government cooperation agreement that guaranteed his testimony in Medunjanin's trial.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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