Two men have been arrested in connection with an ongoing terror investigation in New York City. One of the men, an Afghan-born taxi driver, has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying to U.S. federal agents. The second man, a Bosnian immigrant, is expected to be arraigned in the coming days on similar charges.
According to federal officials, 25-year-old Adis Medunjanin and 24-year-old Zarein Ahmedzay have been under intense scrutiny for months and their homes in the New York City borough of Queens were among those searched last September during a probe into a possible terror plot targeting the city's mass transit system.
Federal officials say the two men are former classmates and possible accomplices of Najibullah Zazi, a terrorism suspect charged with plotting to use weapons of mass destruction in New York City.
A senior agent with the FBI, Richard Kolko, would not give many details about the arrest, but said he believes both have ties to the indicted terror suspect. "I can't discuss any specifics of that case but it is believed that both of these men are associates of Zazi," he said.
Federal officials say both men had traveled to Pakistan in 2008.
In the criminal complaint unsealed Friday, prosecutors say Ahmedzay did not tell federal authorities all of the places in Pakistan and Afghanistan he visited between August 2008 and January 2009 and denied receiving "military-type training" in Pakistan. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Charges against Medunjanin, a U.S. citizen who is originally from Bosnia, could come soon. He was arrested after he crashed his car while driving in Queens. He had surrendered his passport to the FBI.
A lawyer for Medunjanin denies his client was involved in any terror plot. Attorney Robert Gottlieb also accused authorities of keeping his client away from legal counsel for too long. "He grew up in the same community as Zazi. Whether or not that triggered it or something else triggered the focus on him - I can't speak for the FBI and for our federal government. But that is not a substitute then for evidence that he is guilty of crimes that obviously he is being charged with. I don't know yet what they are and it certainly does not justify keeping him away from his lawyer for as long as they did," he said.
Najibullah Zazi, who is accused of receiving weapons training during a trip to Pakistan, has pleaded not guilty to plotting to use weapons of mass destruction. Federal officials had said that they believed that Zazi had not traveled alone to Pakistan, but no possible accomplices had been named.
Both Medunjanin and Ahmedzay are graduates of a high school in Queens and both were living and working in New York City. Ahmedzay had also reportedly recently applied to become a New York City firefighter.