September 16, 2009 / 4:43 PM / 10 years ago

FBI search Denver home of man linked to NY raids

DENVER (Reuters) - Federal agents on Wednesday searched the Denver-area home of a man suspected of sympathizing with al Qaeda and linked to a series of law enforcement raids earlier this week in New York City.

The search of the apartment of Najibullah Zazi, 24, came hours after FBI Director Robert Mueller reassured lawmakers in Washington that there was no imminent security threat related to the investigation but declined to elaborate on the probe.

FBI agents entered Zazi’s residence in the Denver suburb of Aurora with a search warrant, FBI special agent Kathy Wright said. She declined to say whether he was home at the time.

The entire three-story apartment building was roped off with yellow crime-scene tape, and authorities put black screens over the building’s windows to prevent onlookers from seeing inside.

Zazi has denied involvement in any terror-related activities.

His lawyer said that Zazi was stopped by authorities last Thursday, September 10, while driving a rental car on the George Washington Bridge, which connects New York City and New Jersey. Zazi later returned to Colorado by airplane, his lawyer said.

Early on Monday, a joint anti-terrorism task force carried out a series of raids in an area of the Queens borough of New York visited over the weekend by Zazi, who authorities suspect of sympathizing with al Qaeda.

The raids rattled some residents as they came just days after the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

New York police and the FBI have provided few details about the raids. Witnesses to one search said dozens of heavily armed FBI agents arrived in a phalanx of unmarked vehicles and stormed the building in the early morning.

Local officials said agents detained four members of one family, but how long they were held and their connection to the probe was not clear. Local media has reported that authorities were looking for evidence of explosives or bomb-making materials.

A federal law enforcement official said three New York-area search warrants had been executed in all.

After the raids, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory to police agencies on how to track evidence of bomb-making, including looking for burn marks typically found on suspects involved in producing a particular kind of explosive device.

Still, Mueller denied that those under investigation pose any imminent threat to public safety.

“I do not believe there is imminent danger from that particular investigation,” Mueller said in response to a question from New York Senator Charles Schumer. He declined to elaborate on the investigation.

Additional reporting by Edith Honan in New York; Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington; Editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Walsh

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