British intel helps thwart terror attack on NY subway

9/11 may seem a distant memory, but as the recent arrest of Najibullah Zazi – an airport shuttle bus driver with plans to detonate homemade bombs on the New York subway – shows, Al Qaeda still has its eye on the Big Apple.

Najibullah ZaziIt turns out the big tip-off in the Zazi case came to the FBI from Scotland Yard, who intercepted a telling email as part of a mostly defunct domestic counter-terrorist operation. The email suggested that someone was going to bomb the NY underground much the way London’s tube system had been attacked in July 2005, killing 52 people.

The FBI’s subsequent investigation led to Najibullah Zazi, a 24-year-old Afghan from Denver, Colorado who allegedly spent some time at an Al Qaeda training camp. Zazi was arrested for conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction. It seems he was getting his directions over the internet from a senior member of Al Qaeda based in Pakistan, which is why email interception did the trick.

Apparently Zazi belonged to a group who stole credit cards and used them to purchase chemicals for making explosives. The items bought were very similar to the ones used in the 2005 London bombings.

So what other evidence implicates Zazi? Bomb-making instructions on his laptop, as well as his fingerprints on batteries and measuring scales, explosive residue, and recently recorded cell phone footage of Grand Central Station in New York’s midtown.

According to the Brits, the U.S. “is delighted with the intelligence…and believe it helped prevent a catastrophic attack.” At the time, the U.S. was ready to put a stop to intel relations with the U.K. given the latter’s penchant for inadvertently leaking confidential information to the press, but this little tid-bit of information really turned the tide.

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