Reporting from New York — Federal authorities Friday arrested two more men in connection with an alleged plot to use hair dye and other beauty products to make bombs for use against targets in New York.
Both of the men, Adis Medunjanin, 25, and Zarein Ahmedzay, 24, live in the New York City borough of Queens and were high school classmates of Najibullah Zazi, 24, an Afghan native charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction after the case unfolded in September.
Late Friday afternoon, Ahmedzay appeared in federal court in Brooklyn and pleaded not guilty to a charge of lying to investigators about where he had traveled during visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"The indictment indicates he was less than truthful with the FBI agents" during questioning in the months since Zazi's arrest, said Ahmedzay's lawyer, Michael A. Marinaccio, after the brief arraignment. "Whether that is going to be born out remains to be seen."
Charges against Medunjanin, a Bosnian, were not immediately announced. He was expected in court today.
Zazi, who was arrested while living in Colorado and sent to New York to face charges, has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.
His father, Mohammed Wali Zazi of Colorado, and a Queens imam, Ahmad Wais Afzali, who had worked as a New York police informant, were arrested at the same time as Zazi and are charged with lying to authorities. They pleaded not guilty and are free on bail.
At the time of the initial arrests, authorities said they were searching for at least a dozen people in what they described as the first Al Qaeda-linked plot on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Robert Gottlieb, an attorney for Medunjanin, said his client knew the younger Zazi.
"He grew up in the same community. Whether or not that triggered it [the investigation] or whether or not something else triggered the focus on him . . . that is not a substitute for evidence he in fact is guilty," Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb said Medunjanin spent several hours with investigators in October. At that time, authorities also met with Ahmedzay, his brother, Nazir, told the Associated Press.
The men's pictures were among several that had been shown earlier to Afzali, whom police had used to gather information about Zazi before his arrest.
Afzali ended up under arrest himself when authorities accused him of tipping off Zazi about the probe.
An FBI spokesman in New York, Richard Kolko, said the agency believed both men were "associates" of Zazi.
The arrests followed a confusing chain of events that began Thursday afternoon when members of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York showed up at Medunjanin's apartment and seized his passport.
Later in the day, Medunjanin suffered minor injuries in a car crash. The New York Daily News quoted an unidentified law enforcement official as saying Medunjanin rear-ended another vehicle after become flustered while being followed by authorities.
Medunjanin was arrested before dawn Friday following his release from a Queens hospital.
Ahmedzay, a taxi driver, was arrested while on duty.
No one answered the phone at Medunjanin's home Friday afternoon.
A woman who answered the phone at Ahmedzay's home said she did not speak enough English to answer questions, then hung up.
The seizure of Medunjanin's passport suggested that officials were investigating whether he had accompanied Zazi on the defendant's travels to Pakistan last year for what prosecutors say was training by Al Qaeda.
According to the charges against Zazi, he conspired to use products purchased at beauty supply stores to make bombs that were meant to be used in New York, possibly in conjunction with the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.