When he pushed his family's coffee cart on the streets of New York, Najibullah Zazi greeted people with friendly hellos and made a point to remember how regulars liked their joe. Now, feds say he trained with al-Qaeda and planned a massive bomb attack on the same city. The New York Times stitches together a profile of the 24-year-old, finding him to be in many ways a typical American youth who grew up in Queens—with a love of gadgets, basketball, and credit cards—but also one who remained faithful to the Islamic traditions of his native Afghanistan.
“He was a dumb kid, believe me,” says a step-uncle of Zazi's high school days. A friend adds that "he was basically a left shoulder for his father." Some who knew Zazi say something began to change in the past few years, when he grew out his beard, started wearing tunics, and pushed the Koran on customers. One remembers an argument with him in which he said Americans were too materialistic to be happy. At the time of his arrest, Zazi was in credit counseling after declaring personal bankruptcy.