The MUSLIM airport shuttle driver accused of plotting a bombing in New York had contacts with al Qaeda that went all the way up to an Osama bin Laden confidant thought to be the terrorist group’s leader in Afghanistan.
Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, an Egyptian reputed to be one of the founders of the terrorist network, used a middleman to contact Afghan immigrant Najibullah Zazi as the 24-year-old man hatched a plot to use homemade backpack bombs, perhaps on the city’s mass-transit system, the two intelligence officials said.
Al-Yazid’s contact with Mr. Zazi indicates that al Qaeda leadership took an intense interest in what U.S. officials have called one of the most serious terrorism threats crafted on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“Zazi working with the al Qaeda core is exceptionally alarming,” said Daniel Byman of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center. “The al Qaeda core is capable of far more effective terrorist attacks than jihadist terrorists acting on their own, and coordination with the core also enables bin Laden to choose the timing to maximize the benefit to his organization.”
U.S. intelligence officials said earlier that Mr. Zazi had contact with an unnamed senior al Qaeda operative. That helped distinguish Mr. Zazi from other would-be terrorists who have acted on their own in planning or attempting U.S. attacks.
Just weeks before U.S. intelligence officials identified Mr. Zazi as a possible terrorist threat in late August, John Brennan, President Obama’s top domestic terrorism adviser, told a Washington audience that “another attack on the U.S. homeland remains the top priority for the al Qaeda senior leadership.”
U.S. intelligence officials and prosecutors have said that Mr. Zazi was recruited and trained by al Qaeda. They say he and others traveled last year to Pakistan to receive the training.
Prosecutors say Mr. Zazi, during meetings with federal investigators before his arrest last month, “admitted that he received instructions from al Qaeda operatives on subjects such as weapons and explosives” during his trip to Pakistan. Mr. Zazi, who is being held without bond in New York while awaiting trial, has denied receiving al Qaeda training or visiting one of the group’s training camps.
In court documents, prosecutors say Mr. Zazi is linked to three e-mail accounts that he used to pursue his bomb plot. WASHINGTON TIMES