Eric Holder called it the most serious terror threat to the United States since 9/11. And the bombs that could have blown up New York's subway system got their start in Denver beauty-supply stores, where Najibullah Zazi bought the ingredients to make homemade detonators. But that plot exploded, and Zazi's co-conspirator was just convicted.
With Zazi's help.
Zazi himself had pleaded guilty in February 2010, after a wild five-month ride that had the feds converging on Denver in September 2009 to question Zazi about the plot.
Zazi's family had moved to this country from Afghanistan; he attended high school in Flushing, New York, where he met Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin. Angry about 9/11, the three friends traveled to Pakistan in 2008, where they planned to join the Taliban and avenge the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Instead, Al-Qaeda operatives convinced them to return to the U.S. and become suicide bombers. Zazi moved to Denver, where he perfected a homemade detonator in a hotel room, then returned to New York in September 2009 to scout out potential attack sites -- but he noticed that he was being followed. "I think law enforcement is on us," he says he told Ahmedzay.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
And back in Colorado, he was indeed snagged by the FBI, which questioned him for days -- and then he was indicted and transferred to New York, where he ultimately confessed to being part of the conspiracy. Ahmedzay confessed, too, and both agreed to testify at Medunjanin's trial, which started last month in New York City.
Zazi offered up his account during several days on the witness stand in federal court, detailing how the friends were recruited, how he learned to make bombs, and where they planned their attack. After deliberating for less than two days, on Tuesday a jury found Medunjanin guilty of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, attempting to commit an act of terrorism and other charges. He will be sentenced on September 7.
And now that he's testified against his former friend, Zazi will also finally be sentenced. Like Medunjanin, he faces a potential life in prison. And who knows? One of Colorado's most notorious exports could well be returning to this state, to serve his term at the Supermax prison that already holds some of the country's most infamous terrorists.
Zazi's conspiracy isn't the only terrorism story to come out of this state. Read about more in "9/11 anniversary: Top 10 terrorists with Colorado connections."