NEW YORK (AP) — A cousin of admitted terrorist Najibullah Zazi publicly admitted for the first time Monday that he was in on Zazi's chilling 2009 plot to attack New York subways with suicide bombers.
Testifying at the federal obstruction-of-justice trial of Zazi's father, the cousin told jurors that he introduced Zazi to a cleric in Pakistan who arranged for Zazi and two friends from Queens to get training at an al-Qaeda outpost.
"There are three guys who want to go to Waziristan," cousin Amanullah Zazi, who was living in Pakistan at the time, recalled telling the cleric.
Najibullah Zazi has pleaded guilty, admitting that he returned to his family's home in Colorado to cook up homemade bombs. He then drove to New York City in September 2009 with plans to attack the subway system in a "martyrdom operation" that was foiled by the FBI.
Amanullah Zazi pleaded guilty in secret and agreed to become a government witness in federal court in Brooklyn against Najibullah Zazi's father, who was charged in an alleged cover-up.
The father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, "tried to cover Najibullah Zazi's tracks by concealing facts and destroying evidence," Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goldsmith said Monday in opening statements.
The eldest Zazi has denied knowing anything about a plot that left New Yorkers shaken but unharmed.
"He was confused and in the dark," defense lawyer Justine Harris said in her opening statement.
As one of the first witnesses, the 24-year-old cousin described how the FBI swooped down on the entire family after the plot unraveled.
He said "Uncle Wali" and other family members recruited him to get rid of chemicals Najibullah Zazi left behind in Colorado. He claimed he also was urged to lie to the grand jury.
The family agreed, he said, "If anybody asks questions, tell them we don't know nothing."
A brother-in-law of the defendant also has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify.
Najibullah Zazi and one of the two friends charged as would-be suicide bombers are awaiting sentencing. The third man has pleaded not guilty and could go to trial later this year.