October 06, 2009

Sources: Plot suspect contacted senior al-Qaida

Revelation shows case stems from broader CIA counterterrorism effort

NYPD via AP file

Najibullah Zazi, center, is escorted off an NYPD helicopter by U.S Marshals after being extradited from Denver, Colo., on Sept. 25. Zazi was sent to New York to face charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in a plot law enforcement has said was focused on blowing up commuter trains.

updated 9:35 p.m. ET Oct. 5, 2009

NEW YORK - An Afghan immigrant accused of plotting a terrorist attack in New York after receiving training in Pakistan was in contact with a senior al-Qaida operative, intelligence officials familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.

The CIA learned about Najibullah Zazi through one of its sources and alerted domestic agencies, including the FBI, intelligence officials said. The officials, who declined to offer more details on the operative, spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The fact that intelligence officials learned of Zazi through a CIA source sheds more light on the government's claim that the charges against Zazi are part of a broader, international case and begins to explain why the investigation triggered such a large offensive from the nation's intelligence community.

It also shows the case stems from the CIA's counterterrorism efforts to track al-Qaida and not an investigation initiated in this country by someone's suspicious actions, like most other domestic terrorism cases handled by the FBI.

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