Afghan immigrant Najibullah Zazi (pictured), has pleaded guilty at a federal court in New York to attempting to blow up New York City's subway system in protest against the war in Afghanistan. He admitted receiving training from al Qaeda.
AFP - An Afghan immigrant and self-confessed Al-Qaeda agent, Najibullah Zazi, pleaded guilty Monday to attempting to blow up New York's subway system in protest against the war in Afghanistan.
Zazi, 25, pleaded guilty to three charges: conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing material support to the Al-Qaeda Islamist network.
He told the federal court in Brooklyn that his plans to blow up New York targets just after the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks included "mortal operations" in the underground train system.
US Attorney General Eric Holder, describing the plot as one of the most "serious" terrorist threats since September 11, 2001, hailed the guilty plea as evidence that the civilian court system was an appropriate forum to prosecute suspected terrorists.
At a press conference after the plea was announced, he criticized those who "denigrate" the civilian justice system because they oppose a plan to try the alleged 9/11 plotters attack before US courts.
"In this case as it has been in so many other ones, the criminal justice system has proved to be an invaluable weapon for incapacitating plots and obtaining intelligence," he said.
"To denigrate the use of this tool flies in the face of the facts, flies in the face of the history of this tool, it's more about politics."
Zazi, a legal US resident who previously had claimed to be innocent, said he was ready to "sacrifice" himself "to draw the attention to what the United States is doing in Afghanistan."
He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for the first two charges and 15 years for the third. However, his plea appears to be part of a bargain in which he could receive more lenient punishment in return for cooperating with investigators.
Sentencing was scheduled for June 25.
"This was one of the most serious terrorist threats to our nation since September 11th, 2001," Holder said. "It could have been devastating."
Zazi was arrested September 20 in Denver, where he worked as an airport shuttle bus driver. After being brought to New York, he initially pleaded not guilty to the alleged attempt to cause carnage in the city.
But Monday's guilty plea confirms allegations made by US prosecutors, who described Zazi as an Al-Qaeda-linked militant attempting to use "weapons of mass destruction" here.
Prosecutors outlined how Zazi and others traveled to Afghanistan in August 2008 with the intention of joining the Taliban. Instead, they were recruited by Al-Qaeda in Peshawar, Pakistan, and trained to use weapons and explosives.
"During the training, Al-Qaeda leaders asked Zazi and others to return to the United States and conduct suicide operations. They agreed," the Department of Justice said in a statement Monday.
Returning to Colorado, he shopped for large quantities of beauty supply chemicals to concoct explosives in a hotel room, before driving to New York.
Zazi was intending to set off bombs either on September 14, 15 or 16, 2009, the Department of Justice says.
But he left after receiving a tip-off that he was being watched by federal agents.
He admitted in court Monday that "I also took trips to New York city to plan" the attacks. However, he said that instead of carrying out the plot, "we threw away the explosive material."
Zazi's father, Mohammed Walis Zazi, who is charged with conspiring to destroy evidence in the case, was freed on bail last week.
The elder Zazi had been indicted by a grand jury in New York with obstruction of justice.
Zazi "did knowingly and intentionally conspire to corruptly alter, destroy, mutilate and conceal objects, to wit: glasses, masks, liquid chemicals and containers, with the intent to impair the objects' integrity and availability for use," the indictment said.
A New York imam accused of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about the case also is free on bail.
Two other New York men were arrested in January and named as associates of Zazi.
The Justice Department said they were continuing to investigate the case, but that there was no imminent danger from the plot.
"I think that the American people are safe with regards to this plot and the investigation is nevertheless ongoing," Holder said.
"We will continue to work around the clock hoping to bring others involved to justice and to obtain intelligence."
Date created : 2010-02-23