- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NEW YORK | Counterterrorism officials searching New York City apartments for explosives and possible links to al Qaeda operatives questioned a man extensively about his connection to a childhood friend living in Denver who visited last week, the man said Tuesday.

“I can’t tell” if the Denver man, whom he identified as Najibullah, has al Qaeda connections, Naiz Khan said. “I don’t know if there is. I’m not sure.”

Counterterrorism officials warned police departments around the country Tuesday to be on the lookout for evidence of homemade bombs after Monday’s raids on the apartments.

The searches came after a man who was under surveillance for possible links to the terrorism network visited New York City over the weekend and then left the area, said Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican.

Mr. Khan, an Afghanistan native who lives in one of the apartments raided by authorities, said the FBI questioned him for about two hours about his friend, with whom he grew up in New York. He saw him Thursday at a local mosque in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, and Najibullah asked to stay overnight.

“He told me, I have a problem with the coffee truck, I have some type of a permit problem. I need to sleep over, overnight in your room,” Mr. Khan said. His friend used to operate a coffee truck in the city before moving to Denver a few years ago, Mr. Khan said.

After Najibullah stayed at the apartment, Mr. Khan said, he ran into him on Friday at the mosque. His friend told him his car had been stolen; Mr. Khan didn’t see him again.

FBI agents raided his home in Flushing early Monday morning, Mr. Khan said in an interview in his ransacked apartment.

Investigators issued warrants to search the residences early Monday for explosives material but did not find any, according to a person briefed on the matter who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity.

The FBI and Homeland Security intelligence warning, issued Monday to police departments, lists indicators that could tip off police to homemade hydrogen peroxide-based explosives, such as people with burn marks on their hands, face or arms; foul odors coming from a room or building; and large industrial fans or multiple window fans. The warning, obtained by the Associated Press, also said that these homemade explosive materials can be hidden in backpacks, suitcases or plastic containers.

The notice was not intended for the public, said Justice Department spokesman Richard Kolko.

Homeland Security and the FBI have no specific information on the timing or target of any planned attack, Mr. Kolko said, but “we believe it is prudent to share information with our state and local partners about the variety of domestically available materials that could be used to create homemade explosives, which have been utilized in previous terrorist attacks.”

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