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New York Imam pleads guilty in Zazi case

Last updated on: March 05, 2010 15:32 IST

A New York cleric, who tipped off al Qaeda-trained militant Najibullah Zazi as he plotted to bomb the city's subways last year, has pleaded guilty to lying to US federal agents about his contacts with the terror suspect.

Ahmad Afzali, a 38-year-old Afghani citizen who is a mosque imam in Queens, was charged in September with making false statements to the government, including lying about whether he told a terror suspect Najibullah Zazi that federal authorities were on his trail.

"When I was asked whether I had told Zazi about law-enforcement being interested in him, I lied and said I did not. My intention was not to protect Zazi but to protect myself," Afzali told the judge in a Brooklyn federal court.

"In doing so, I failed to live up to my obligation to this country, my community, my family, and my religion. I am truly sorry," he said, between tears.

Afzali, will be sentenced on April 10, and faces a prison term of up to six months.

After finishing his sentence, Afzali has to leave the United States within three months.

Najibullah Zazi, a 25-year-old shuttle driver from Colorado, had pleaded guilty to three terrorism charges in a federal court, and admitted to being trained along with other men from New York by al Qaeda in Pakistan.

"During the training, Al Qaeda leaders asked us to return to the United States and conduct martyrdom operations. We agreed to this plan," Zazi said during the trial. 

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