Najibullah Zazi arrives at the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building in downtown Denver September 17, 2009. Zazi was questioned by FBI for suspected involvement in a terrorism plot involving peroxide-based explosives. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
Terror suspect Najibullah Zazi and several accomplices were captured on videotape trying to rent U-Haul trucks in Colorado in the weeks before the Sept. 11 anniversary, the company said.
The development comes as law enforcement officials said a "handful" of men in New York City remain under surveillance as possible Zazi associates -- and more arrests could come soon. Little is known about these men, but officials say the share a "common" extremist ideology.
So far, 24-year-old Zazi is the only person charged in connection with plotting a terrorist bombing in the United States.
One former Justice Department Attorney told Denver's KUSA that the revelation about the U-Haul trucks could indicate the plot was larger in scope than previously thought.
Former Department of Justice Attorney Bryan Cunningham also said that such a plan evokes memories of the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City. American terrorists used rental trucks packed with explosives to level the building, killing 168 people and injuring 600 more.
"If you're now talking about them trying to use U-Hauls as bombs, that is a much, much, much bigger operation. Remember Oklahoma City?" said Cunningham. "This creates a much bigger order of magnitude threat," KUSA reported.
"If in fact they were renting multiple vehicles, that's a very serious concern," Cunningham said. "That's another trademark of Al-Qaida: multiple, simultaneous attacks."
FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Senate panel yesterday there was no imminent threat related to the Zazi investigation.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said U.S. officials had considered raising the national threat level because of the Zazi investigation, but decided against it.
The current threat level for the country is set at "elevated," or yellow.
"We thought about it and rejected it because we didn't have in the Zazi investigation any kind of specific location, time, threat that would, in our view, justify actually raising the color codes," Napolitano told the committee.
U-Haul International, Inc. spokesperson Joanne Fried confirmed with KUSA that FBI Agents seized security videotapes, allegedly of Zazi with two or three other men inside the Denver U-Haul rental location. The men inquired about the different vehicles for rent and the amount of the deposit, U-Haul said.
U-Haul International, Inc. has not released copies of the security videotapes and the FBI has not commented on the revelation.
Zazi is charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction after he was allegedly seen buying hair care products that could be used in explosives from a Denver-area hair-supply store. Federal officials said a search of his computer turned up a bomb making manual and Zazi has allegedly admitted to al-Qaida weapons training in Pakistan.
He has also maintained his innocence.
Zazi was arraigned on Tuesday on one count of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in a plot that federal officials believe would target New York City mass transit.
Following the hearing, Zazi's attorney, J. Michael Dowling, told reporters he hasn't seen any evidence so far to prove his client had the intent to build a bomb.
"I'd like to stop this rush to judgment because what I've seen so far does not amount to a conspiracy," Dowling told reporters gathered outside the courtroom on Tuesday.
The terror suspect is expected to be held at Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center until his next hearing, scheduled for December 3.