Terror Probe Target: “I Love America”

Denver cell under surveillance; NYPD and FBI schism reported

The suspect at the center of the Queens terror raids "loves this country," his lawyer said Tuesday night.

"He loves living here, that's why he brought his family over here," attorney Arthur Folsom, who represents Najibbullah Zazi, told NBC-affiliate KUSA in Denver. "He loves this country."

Federal sources told NBCNewYork that Zazi is the suspect that cops and federal agents were looking for when they executed a massive raid on several residences in Flushing on Monday.

Folsom said Zazi, who works as an airport shuttle driver in Aurora, Colo., is eager to answer any questions from the federal government to clear the air of any suspicion surrounding his name at this point.

Federal agents searched Zazi's car and his computer, and interviewed three others during the investigation Monday, but Zazi had flown back to Colorado on Sunday.

According to one report in the Daily News, the raids are part of an ongoing FBI probe into a Denver terror cell plotting an "attack on the scale of 9/11" -- but investigators have downplayed that account.

Hundreds of FBI agents in Denver are now monitoring the suspects around the clock, the News reported.

The terror investigation also may have caused a schism between the NYPD and the Feds, according to the New York Post.

Officials told NBCNewYork that they have been watching several men in the Denver area for some time, and when one traveled to New York late last week, that raised the concern of authorities, sparking the raids. They stressed that there is no specific plot underway.

Meanwhile the Post reported that the FBI is miffed with the NYPD for allegedly flubbing the intelligence gathering effort in Queens -- and tipping off the main suspect, who may have ties to al-Qaeda.

Federal agents had reportedly asked their NYPD counterparts to be discreet in their investigation, but the cops were anything but sly, going around the neighborhood showing the suspect's picture, and causing him to flee, sources told the Post.

The feds "are mad about it," the source told the paper, although NYPD spokesman Paul Browne called the report "utter fabrication."

The president of Masjid Hazrat Abubakr Islamic Center in Flushing, Abdulrahman Jalili, said he knows Zazi. Jalili,58, told NBCNewYork that he saw Zazi after a long absence last Thursday at the mosque where he came to pray and break Ramadan fast.

Jalili says he never suspected Zazi of any evil, and that he was a quiet guy who used to come to the mosque on Fridays and lived nearby.

FBI agents had been monitoring Zazi, who had recently driven to New York, federal sources said.  Zazi, who feds believe has links to al Qaeda, met with several people in Flushing, and the activities aroused enough suspicion to obtain warrants for the searches, the sources said.

As a result the ongoing investigation, FBI and Homeland Security officials are warning local police departments to be on the look out for materials that could be used to make explosives --  just hours after law enforcement agents raided several residences in Queens as part of a terrorism investigation.

In the hours following the raids, a joint intelligence warning was issued to local police listing indicators that could tip off law enforcement to homemade hydrogen peroxide-based explosives, such as people with burn marks on their hands, face or arms.

The early morning raids in Flushing did not result in any arrests and there were no weapons seized.

New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne confirmed the searches were conducted by agents of a joint terrorism task force. 

Brown told NBCNewYork that  even though there was no specific threat to New York City, New Yorkers should "stay vigilant of what is going on around them and if they see anything suspicious they should call 911."

Residents in Flushing described heavily armed officers, carrying search warrants and a battering ram, swarming their immigrant neighborhood at about 2:30 a.m.

Akbari Amanullah, a cab driver who lived in an apartment with four other natives of Afghanistan, said when he arrived home from work afterward, he was told that one of his roommates had been taken away. 
Authorities said the raids did not turn up much. There were no weapons or other materials -- such as a bomb -- that would indicate an attack was imminent.
Sen. Charles Schumer called the raids "preventive" and stressed that there was no imminent danger. He also said the situation was unrelated to President Barack Obama's visit to Wall Street Monday.

"The FBI, as you know, is very good at monitoring potential dangerous actions and people. They were doing that," Schumer said.

The investigation is continuing.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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