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Queens Chronicle

Imam tipped off terror plotter

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Posted: Thursday, March 11, 2010 12:00 am

The former leader of a mosque in Flushing pleaded guilty on March 4 to telling a would-be terrorist that the government was on his trail and then lying to the FBI about it when questioned. He now faces deportation back to his native Afghanistan.

Imam Ahmad Afzali wept in Brooklyn Federal Court as he said he was sorry for misleading investigators about his conversation with Najibullah Zazi, a Colorado man formerly of Flushing who has pleaded guilty to planning to bomb the subway system and faces life in prison.

Afzali, who had been a permanent legal U.S. resident and imam at the Hazrat Abu Bakr Mosque, said he fears he will be killed in Afghanistan for cooperating with the U.S. government, something he did for several years. He apologized for failing “to live up to my obligation to this country, my community, my family and my religion,” according to a transcript of his statement posted online by news organizations. He said he does not know what to do, since his wife and children are U.S. citizens.

Afzali said he lied to the FBI about tipping off Zazi that agents were onto him and advising him to avoid violent jihad. Zazi had planned to set off a explosions in the subways last September, near the anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks.

— Peter C. Mastrosimone

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