New York bomb suspect charged, arrests in Pakistan

Faisal Shahzad (CNN photo)

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.

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