Sept. 24, 2009— -- Najibullah Zazi, the 24-year-old airport shuttle driver from Denver, Colorado who officials say was the ringleader of an alleged terror plot against New York City, was charged with conspiracy to use explosive bombs Thursday morning – the latest indication that authorities still believe the alleged attack plan was "the real deal."
The one-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury alleges that Zazi "conspired with others to use explosive devices against persons or property in the United States," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
Zazi and his father Mohammad were in Colorado court this morning for a detention hearing. Mohammad Zazi, charged with lying to federal agents, was released this afternoon. His travel will be restricted to Colorado and he will have to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.
The government alleges that between Aug. 1 and Sept. 21, the day Zazi was arrested in Colorado and charged with lying to federal agents, he "knowingly and intentionally conspired with others to use one or more weapons of mass destruction." The Justice Department says it will now request his initial charge be dismissed and that he be transferred to the Eastern District of New York to be arraigned on the conspiracy to detonate bombs charge.
Officials believe Zazi received "detailed bomb-making instructions in Pakistan, purchased components of improvised explosive devices, and traveled to New York City on September 10, 2009 in furtherance of his criminal plans," according to a detention motion filing. In addition, the document says Zazi conducted "extensive research on the internet regarding components of explosive devices."
Before his arrest, Zazi denied any al Qaeda ties to television cameras.
Zazi's attorney Arthur Folsom had no comment "at this time" about the latest charge.
Alleged Ringleader of NYC Terror Attack Plot
Zazi, who authorities say appears to be the ringleader of the alleged plot, has been tracked by the FBI and the CIA for more than a year, during which time he has traveled twice to Pakistan for explosives training from al Qaeda.
Court records show Zazi ran up more than $50,000 in debt on 20 credit cards, leading to concerns he was preparing for a suicide mission. He declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Mar. 2009, and while he told investigators he had been traveling to Pakistan see his wife, he checked the "not married" box on his application form.