New York bomb suspect charged, arrests in Pakistan
NEW YORK/ISLAMABAD, (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors charged a Pakistani-American today with attempting to blow up a car bomb in New York’s busy Times Square while officials in Pakistan arrested several of his relatives.
Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in the Kashmir region of Pakistan, admitted to receiving bomb-making training in his country, according to charges filed by prosecutors.
“After the arrest Shahzad admitted that he had attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square. He also admitted that he had recently received bomb-making training in Waziristan, Pakistan,” the charges said.
He also told authorities he acted alone in Saturday’s failed bombing but skeptical investigators are looking into his recent trip to Pakistan, a U.S. law enforcement source said.
Shahzad, 30, was arrested late on Monday night after he was taken off an Emirates airline plane that was about to depart for Dubai. Hours later, several relatives and a friend were arrested in Pakistan in connection with the failed bombing, a security official in Karachi said.
U.S. authorities are investigating whether Emirates airline made a mistake in letting Shahzad on its aircraft.
“That’s part of the investigation that we’re looking at,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a news briefing.
Shahzad is from the disputed Kashmiri region but it was not known if he was affiliated with any militant group, a source familiar with the investigation said. The source asked not to be named because the issue is sensitive.
“Which group he may have belonged to and how he became radicalized, we don’t know yet,” said the source.
An intelligence official in Pakistan said Shahzad received militant training in northwest Pakistan near the garrison town of Kohat. The area around Kohat is a stronghold of Tariq Afridi, the main Pakistani Taliban commander in the region.
But the homemade bomb he is accused of trying to detonate in Times Square was a crude collection of gasoline, propane gas, fireworks, fertilizer and alarm clocks.
Although markets shrugged off the New York car bomb attempt as a one-off situation, tensions are high among investors. News that police in London closed a subway station to investigate reports of a suspect package pushed U.S. stock index futures to session lows before the market opened today.
CLAIMS HE ACTED ALONE
Shahzad was due to appear in federal court later today or tomorrow to face the terrorism-related charges, which carry a life sentence if he is convicted. Had the bomb detonated, many people could have died, experts said.
“He’s admitted to buying the truck, putting the devices together, putting them in the truck, leaving the truck there and leaving the scene,” the law enforcement source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. “He’s claimed to have acted alone.
“Based on our collective experience it’s hard to really believe that this is something someone would do on their own. It seems hard to pull off alone. There’s a lot we don’t know yet,” the source said.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Shahzad has provided investigators with useful information but declined to discuss specifics at a news conference in Washington.
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said it was the 11th thwarted attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.
An Afghan immigrant who admitted to receiving al Qaeda training in Pakistan, Najibullah Zazi, pleaded guilty to plotting a suicide bombing campaign on Manhattan’s subway system last September.
President Barack Obama said the investigation would seek to determine if the suspect in custody had any connection with foreign extremist groups.
The Taliban in Pakistan claimed responsibility for the plot though several officials voiced skepticism about the claim.
If links were found between the failed bombing and Pakistan’s Taliban, which claimed responsibility for it, Pakistan could come under renewed U.S. pressure to open risky new fronts against Islamic militants.
Shahzad, who became a U.S. citizen last year, recently visited Pakistan for about five months, returning to the United States in February, the U.S. law enforcement source said.
Shahzad worked for about three years as a junior financial analyst in the Norwalk, Connecticut, office of the Affinion Group, a marketing and consulting business, the company said today. Shahzad left the company in June 2009.
Shahzad is suspected of buying a 1993 Nissan sport utility vehicle used to carry the homemade bomb into Times Square as the theater and shopping area was packed with people on a warm Saturday evening.
Authorities searched Shahzad’s home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the FBI said today. An FBI spokeswoman did not say what authorities had found.
TIMELINE-From parking a car bomb to catching a plane
WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Fifty-three hours and 20 minutes elapsed between the time Faisal Shahzad allegedly parked a vehicle carrying a bomb in New York’s Times Square on Saturday and the time of his arrest.
Following are the key breaks that enabled U.S. authorities to track down the suspect:
– A street vendor alerted police to smoke coming from a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder SUV parked at the corner of 45th Street and 7th Avenue in the heart of Times Square on Saturday evening. Upon closer inspection, police discovered it was loaded with three 20-gallon propane tanks; a metal container with M-88 fireworks; 250 pounds of urea-based fertilizer and more M-88s in a metal locker; two gasoline cans with additional M-88s; and two alarm clocks.
– Times Square, usually filled with tourists, diners and shoppers, was cleared while the New York Police bomb squad defused the device. The vehicle identification number on the dashboard had been removed but one detective crawled under the SUV to locate the number on the engine. They also began scouring numerous surveillance camera tapes to see if they could locate the individual.
– With the identification number, authorities were able to trace the vehicle back to its original owner, who gave police the contact information of the man who bought it for cash a few weeks ago, describing him as approximately 30 years old and being either of Hispanic or Middle Eastern origin.
– With that information, the FBI by Sunday evening had identified the suspect as Shahzad, a Pakistani-American. They began tracking his whereabouts, including to a home in Connecticut where search warrants were later executed and more evidence gathered. The Department of Homeland Security boosted security at all East Coast airports with a special emphasis on airports in New York, Boston and Philadelphia.
– On Monday, Shahzad was added to the U.S. no-fly list barring him from air travel and the Customs and Border Protection unit of the Department of Homeland Security alerted its officers to watch for him. Later that evening, CBP officers discovered that Shahzad had boarded Emirates flight 202 at John F. Kennedy International Airport scheduled to depart at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT). The plane cabin door was closed but before it left the gate to take off, the door was re-opened and Shahzad was removed from the flight and arrested.
– U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced at a hastily arranged news conference at 1:30 a.m. EDT (0530 GMT) today that Shahzad has been apprehended in connection with the failed car bombing attempt. Holder told reporters 12 hours later the suspect had been cooperating, had provided useful intelligence during questioning and had admitted his involvement as well as receiving bomb-making training in Pakistan.