The Afghan immigrant accused of plotting a terror attack on New York City spent his earliest years in his wartorn homeland, a center of strife and fighting against a Soviet invasion and, after the occupiers left, clashing warlords.
When Zazi was a teenager, his family shared a Queens apartment building and worshipped with an imam linked to a former Afghan warlord later identified by the U.S. as a global terrorist.
And as a young man, Zazi traveled to a region of Pakistan known for training terrorists and visited camps where Al Qaeda teaches how to kill with horrific bombs made from household ingredients like hair dye and flour.
Along the way, Zazi was transformed from a snappily dressed young man with a taste for computer games and basketball to a bearded devotee of Islamic traditionalism — while also selling coffee from a cart at the epicenter of American capitalism, Wall Street.
Zazi's friends and relatives say he never chose to listen to others urging violence, instead working long days and spending his little free time with his family. "He was a very normal, very life-loving guy," said Naiz Khan, who befriended Zazi nearly 10 years ago when the two teenagers attended the same mosque and high school in Queens.
Federal prosecutors offer a different view. They say the 24-year-old Denver airport shuttle driver eagerly heeded the call to kill, maim and terrorize Americans.
Zazi is being held without bail after pleading not guilty to conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction. Prosecutors claim Zazi, who returned to New York to stay with his friend Kahn days before the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, had been planning his own terror, possibly a deadly subway bombing.