Daily brief: U.S. charges Qaeda suspect with bomb plot

The beauty and the bomb  Accused al Qaeda-linked terrorist Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan who is a legal resident of Colorado, has been indicted in New York on charges of attempting to manufacture weapons of mass destruction after receiving explosives training from an al Qaeda camp in Pakistan, and he reportedly bought key bomb-making ingredients in ...

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DENVER, COLORADO - SEPTEMEBER 17: Najibullah Zazi (R), 24, arrives at the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building in downtown with his attorney Art Folsom (not pictured) September 17, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. Zazi has been undergoing questioning at the FBI's Denver branch for suspected involvement in a terrorism plot involving peroxide-based explosives. Federal and local authorities searched Zazi's apartment and the home of relatives close by yesterday but have not commented on whether anything was found during the searches. Zazi has repeatedly denied being involved with terrorism or bomb making. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)

The beauty and the bomb
 
Accused al Qaeda-linked terrorist Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan who is a legal resident of Colorado, has been indicted in New York on charges of attempting to manufacture weapons of mass destruction after receiving explosives training from an al Qaeda camp in Pakistan, and he reportedly bought key bomb-making ingredients in beauty stores in Colorado and New York (Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, AP).

The criminal complaint can be found here (Eastern District, New York). Zazi and three unnamed helpers reportedly planned to construct bombs using a compound similar to the one used in the 2005 London subway bombings (Reuters, AP, New York Times). One employee at a store in Colorado said that Zazi explained his beauty store purchases by saying that he "had a lot of girlfriends."
 
Zazi's father, also arrested and charged with lying to federal prosecutors, was released under electronic monitoring yesterday, and bail was set for a Queens imam Ahmad Wais Afzali, who purportedly tipped off Zazi that he was under police surveillance (Washington Post). The imam's lawyer claims that Afzali cooperated with the government in its investigations, and has done nothing wrong.
 
Stateside jihad?
 
Federal agents posing as al Qaeda operatives were able to infiltrate and defuse two other apparently unrelated plots to bomb targets in Springfield, Illinois and Dallas, Texas. In Illinois Michael Finton, also known as Talib Islam, reportedly idolized "American Taliban" fighter John Walker Lindh and sought to attack a federal courthouse in Springfield (Reuters, Chicago Sun Times, AP). In Dallas, an illegal Jordanian immigrant named Maher Husain Smadi allegedly attempted to blow up the Fountain Place office tower (CNN, AP). Both Smadi and Finton were given fake bombs by undercover agents and arrested when they attempted to carry out their plans.
 
The government also charged a Brooklyn resident, Betim Kaziu, with claims that he sought to go abroad and attack American forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia (New York Times). Kaziu first attempted to buy weapons and join a terrorist group linked to al Qaeda in Cairo, before making his way to Kosovo, where he was arrested and turned over to American authorities.


The beauty and the bomb
 
Accused al Qaeda-linked terrorist Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan who is a legal resident of Colorado, has been indicted in New York on charges of attempting to manufacture weapons of mass destruction after receiving explosives training from an al Qaeda camp in Pakistan, and he reportedly bought key bomb-making ingredients in beauty stores in Colorado and New York (Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Denver Post, AP).

The criminal complaint can be found here (Eastern District, New York). Zazi and three unnamed helpers reportedly planned to construct bombs using a compound similar to the one used in the 2005 London subway bombings (Reuters, AP, New York Times). One employee at a store in Colorado said that Zazi explained his beauty store purchases by saying that he “had a lot of girlfriends.”
 
Zazi’s father, also arrested and charged with lying to federal prosecutors, was released under electronic monitoring yesterday, and bail was set for a Queens imam Ahmad Wais Afzali, who purportedly tipped off Zazi that he was under police surveillance (Washington Post). The imam’s lawyer claims that Afzali cooperated with the government in its investigations, and has done nothing wrong.
 
Stateside jihad?
 
Federal agents posing as al Qaeda operatives were able to infiltrate and defuse two other apparently unrelated plots to bomb targets in Springfield, Illinois and Dallas, Texas. In Illinois Michael Finton, also known as Talib Islam, reportedly idolized “American Taliban” fighter John Walker Lindh and sought to attack a federal courthouse in Springfield (Reuters, Chicago Sun Times, AP). In Dallas, an illegal Jordanian immigrant named Maher Husain Smadi allegedly attempted to blow up the Fountain Place office tower (CNN, AP). Both Smadi and Finton were given fake bombs by undercover agents and arrested when they attempted to carry out their plans.
 
The government also charged a Brooklyn resident, Betim Kaziu, with claims that he sought to go abroad and attack American forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia (New York Times). Kaziu first attempted to buy weapons and join a terrorist group linked to al Qaeda in Cairo, before making his way to Kosovo, where he was arrested and turned over to American authorities.

And new charges were filed yesterday alleging that North Carolina-based terrorism suspects Daniel Boyd and Hysen Sherifi planned to attack targets in the United States (AP). While the previous charges deal with the men’s purported plans to wage holy war abroad, the new indictment reflects evidence that they performed reconnaissance on the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia, and were planning to attack U.S. military personnel.
 
He loves me, he loves me not
 
A suspected U.S.-operated drone strike attacked the network of Afghan militant commander Jalaluddin Haqqani last night in the restive tribal region of North Waziristan, the fourth strike there this month and the 39th strike in Pakistan this year (BBC, Al Jazeera, AP). It reportedly killed as many as 10 militants (Wall Street Journal, Dawn).
 
The U.S. Senate yesterday unanimously passed a new aid bill for Pakistan, totaling $7.5 billion over the next five years and tripling foreign aid to the country (Geo TV, APReuters). The compromise bill is likely to move through Congress quickly (Foreign Policy). The flip side is that the U.S.’s plan to expand the American embassy in Islamabad to deal with this influx of funding is causing consternation among Pakistanis, who view it suspiciously (Los Angeles Times). 
 
And the implementation of American aid could be slowed by a recent surge in anti-American sentiment in Pakistan (Washington Post). The Pakistani government has rejected 180 visa applications from American government employees recently, claiming they were “incomplete.”
 
Adieu to the Army
 
Brig. Gen. Andrew Mackay has resigned his commission in the British Army, becoming the fifth high-ranking officer in the past two years to do so (Times of London, Independent). He is believed to have resigned in anger over the British government’s handling of the war in Afghanistan.
 
Senior Afghan officials have called for more troops to be sent to bolster the mission in Afghanistan as well as the government of incumbent Afghan President Hamid Karzai, anxious about U.S. President Barack Obama’s perceived reconsideration of his Afghanistan strategy (Wall Street Journal). Despite Western concerns over corruption within Karzai’s government and a partial recount from last month’s disputed presidential election looming, one official urged support for the incumbent, saying “Let’s be practical — what is the alternative to Karzai?”
 
The senior Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, Congressman Buck McKeon, told journalists that President Obama “wasn’t inclined” to send more American forces to Afghanistan (AFP). And a new poll shows that only 41 percent of Americans favor sending more troops to Afghanistan (USA Today).
 
The fast and the furious
 
Despite painstaking preparation and the deployment of extra officers, police in Lahore, Pakistan have proved unable to stop motorcyclists from popping wheelies in celebration of the Eid al-Fitr holiday (Daily Times). The riders, often young men, have reportedly been planning and practicing for months; many spent the two days before Eid “patrolling” the streets to observe the timing and concentration of police in different parts of the city. Police vowed stern action against any drivers caught red-handed, or caught riding without a silencer.

Editor’s note: today’s AfPak Channel Daily Brief was prepared by Andrew Lebovich, a research associate at the New America Foundation, and Katherine Tiedemann.

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