A serious terror case in years

Najibullah Zazi had carefully prepared for an attack in US

 
Najibullah Zazi arrives at the  FBI office in Denver for questioning on Thursday. APThe accumulating evidence against a Denver airport shuttle driver suggests he may be different, with some investigators calling his case the most serious in years.

Documents filed in Brooklyn against the driver, Najibullah Zazi, contend he bought chemicals needed to build a bomb —hydrogen peroxide, acetone and hydrochloric acid — and in doing so, Zazi took a critical step made by few other terrorism suspects. If government allegations are to be believed, Zazi, a legal immigrant from Afghanistan, had carefully prepared for a terrorist attack. He attended an al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan, received training in explosives and stored in his laptop computer nine pages of instructions for making bombs from the same kind of chemicals he had bought.

While many important facts remain unknown, those allegations alone would distinguish Zazi from nearly all the other defendants in US terrorism cases in recent years.

More often than not the earlier suspects emerged as angry young men, inflamed by the rhetoric of Osama bin Laden or his associates. Some were serious in intent.

More than a few seemed to be malcontents without the organisation, technical skills and financing to be much of a threat.

In some cases, the subjects appeared to be influenced by informants or undercover agents who pledged to provide the weapons or even do some of the planning. In two cases unrelated to Zazi in which charges were announced on Thursday, in fact, the subjects dealt extensively with undercover agents.

The Zazi case “actually looks like the case the government kept claiming it had but never did,” said Karen J Greenberg, executive director of the Centre on Law and Security at New York University law school.

Fantasy cases

Her centre has studied all the prosecutions of terrorism-related crimes since 2001, and she said many had turned out to be “fantasy terrorism cases” where the threat seemed modest or even nonexistent.

This time, she said: “The ingredients here are quite scary,” and the government’s statements have had none of the bombast and exaggeration that accompanied some previous arrest announcements. Jarret Brachman, author of Global Jihadism and a consultant to the government about terrorism, said some details — like what individuals trained Zazi in Pakistan — remained to be learned. But he said the case was “shaping up to be one of the most serious terrorist bomb plots developed in the US,” one resembling the London public transit attacks of July 2005.

In Zazi’s case, veteran counterterrorism investigators who regard it as significant acknowledge that important facts remain unknown. Unclear are whether Zazi had selected a target or a date for a bombing or had recruited others to help.

Moreover, it is not understood fully whether he had built an operational bomb, officials briefed on the case said.

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