Man admits involvement

Seized from a plane about to fly to the Middle East, a Pakistan-born man admitted training to make bombs at a terrorism camp in his native land before he rigged a sport utility vehicle with a homemade device to explode in Times Square, authorities said Tuesday.

A police car drives past a house

A police car drives past a house

NEW YORK — Seized from a plane about to fly to the Middle East, a Pakistan-born man admitted training to make bombs at a terrorism camp in his native land before he rigged a sport utility vehicle with a homemade device to explode in Times Square, authorities said Tuesday.

Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen who recently spent five months in Pakistan, was arrested on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction charges for trying to blow up the crude gasoline-and-propane bomb amid tourists and theatregoers Saturday evening.

He was in custody after being hauled off a Dubai-bound plane at Kennedy Airport that he had been able to board Monday night despite being placed on the federal “no-fly” list.

Because Customs and Border Protection agents were on the lookout for Shahzad, they recognized his name on a passenger manifest and ordered the flight stopped so they could arrest him.

Authorities shed little light on what might have motivated Shahzad — who since moving from Pakistan to Connecticut had acquired a master’s degree in business administration and a house in the suburbs that subsequently was lost to foreclosure. He reportedly came from a background of privilege and wealth — the son of a retired air vice marshal.

A real estate broker who worked with Shahzad in 2004 said the bombing suspect had expressed a dislike for former President George W. Bush and his policy in Iraq.

Attorney General Eric Holder said Shahzad has been providing valuable information to investigators as they sought to determine the scope of the plot. A court hearing for him was cancelled Tuesday in part because of his continuing co-operation.

“Based on what we know so far, it is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country,” Holder said.

Holder and other U.S. officials did not elaborate on whether they believed any international terrorist group was involved, or whether Shahzad, after his training, was acting on his own.

The FBI read Shahzad his constitutional rights after he provided information, and he continued to co-operate, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole said.

Shahzad, 30, had been identified as the man who recently purchased the sport utility vehicle in cash and was added to the no-fly list early Monday afternoon as a result of breaking developments in the investigation, according to a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Counterterrorism officials send electronic notifications to airlines when watch lists are updated, but it is up to the airlines to check the web forum where the notifications are sent.

If Emirates airlines had done this, the airline would have been able to flag Shahzad when he purchased his ticket that night.

Because they didn’t, law enforcement officials were not aware of his travel plans until they received the flight manifest 30 minutes before takeoff, the official said.

Customs and Border Protection officials, who were on the lookout for Shahzad since the early afternoon, recognized his name on the manifest and ordered the flight stopped so they could arrest him. The flight had not left the gate at that point, the official said.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano credited Customs officials with recognizing Shahzad’s name on the manifest and stopping the flight. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the bomb plot, but U.S. officials say there’s no evidence to back that up.

President Barack Obama said “hundreds of lives” may have been saved Saturday night by the quick action of ordinary citizens and law enforcement authorities who saw the smoking SUV — a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder — parked in Times Square.

“As Americans and as a nation, we will not be terrorized. We will not cower in fear. We will not be intimidated,” Obama said.

Married with two children, Shahzad had obtained U.S. citizenship after emigrating from Pakistan.

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, authorities removed filled plastic bags and a bomb squad came and went from a house in a working-class neighbourhood of multifamily homes. FBI agents found a box of consumer-grade firecrackers and other fireworks in the driveway that they were marking off as evidence.

Shahzad graduated from the University of Bridgeport with a bachelor’s degree in computer applications and information systems in 2001 and later returned to earn a master’s in business administration in 2005, the school said.

He had returned Feb. 3 from a five-month trip to Pakistan, claiming he was visiting his parents, the complaint said.

Real estate broker Igor Djuric, who represented Shahzad when he was buying a home in Shelton, Conn., in 2004, said Shahzad made clear he didn’t like President George W. Bush or his policy in Iraq. Djuric said the comments were not hateful but he was surprised to hear them because they hardly knew each other.

Shahzad bought the two-story greyish-brown colonial in a working-class neighbourhood for $273,000 and lost it to foreclosure last year. Frank DelVecchio, a broker trying to sell it for Shahzad, said Shahzad told him to let the bank take the house because he owed too much on it and he planned to return to Pakistan.

He worked from mid-2006 to May 2009 as a junior financial analyst for the Affinion Group, a marketing firm in Norwalk, Conn. Company spokesman Michael Bush said Shahzad held a lower-level position dealing with the company’s budget and projected income, and left on good terms.

Law enforcement officials say Shahzad answered an Internet ad for the Pathfinder, and gave a cellphone number to the registered owner. They later used the cellphone number to track him and learn his name.

Shahzad paid $1,300 cash three weeks ago for the SUV, going first for a test-drive in a supermarket parking lot and offering less than the $1,800 advertised price. Peggy Colas, 19, of Bridgeport, sold the car to Shahzad, law enforcement officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.

She and another person involved in the transaction, possibly her father, gave authorities a description of the suspect and were later shown a sketch. Keys found in the SUV’s ignition fit the car Shahzad left at the airport and a home in Connecticut.

The vehicle identification number had been removed from the Pathfinder’s dashboard, but it was stamped on the engine, and investigators used it to track the owner of record.

The complaint said Shahzad apparently tinted the SUV’s windows after buying it. The bomb inside had cheap-looking alarm clocks connected to a 16-ounce can filled with fireworks, which were apparently intended to detonate gas cans and propane tanks.

A metal rifle cabinet in the SUV’s cargo area was packed with fertilizer, but NYPD bomb experts believe it was not a type volatile enough to explode like the ammonium nitrate grade fertilizer used in previous terrorist bombings.

Police said the SUV bomb could have produced “a significant fireball” and sprayed shrapnel with enough force to kill pedestrians and knThe complaint charged Shahzad with trying to detonate a weapon of mass destruction, attempted car bombing and obstructing interstate and foreign commerce by trying to kill and maim U.S. citizens.

The report of Shahzad’s training raises the possibility the attack was a co-ordinated international effort, but authorities have not said whether they believe that to be the case.

In Pakistan, authorities said they had detained several people in connection with the bombing attempt, although the FBI said it had no confirmation that these arrests were relevant to the case. Reports also surfaced in Pakistan that Shahzad came from a wealthy family and was the son of a former high-ranking air force officer.

ock out windows.

Several of Shahzad’s neighbours say he kept largely to himself, rarely socializing or even stopping to chat.

“He usually walks around alone, looking lonely and kind of depressed usually,” said Nejilia Gayden, 18, of Bridgeport.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the arrest should not be as used as an excuse for anti-Muslim actions. “We will not tolerate any bias or backlash against Pakistani or Muslim New Yorkers,” he said.

More than a dozen people with U.S. citizenship or residency, like Shahzad, have been accused in the past two years of supporting, attempting or carrying out attacks on U.S. soil, illustrating the threat of violent extremism from within the U.S.

Among them are Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, a U.S.-born Army psychiatrist of Palestinian descent, charged with fatally shooting 13 people last year at Fort Hood, Texas, and Najibullah Zazi, a Denver-area airport shuttle driver who pleaded guilty in February in a plot to bomb New York subways.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the Times Square incident in a one-minute video posted on websites Sunday. The video was narrated by Qari Hussain Mehsud, the group’s chief bomb maker who is also in charge of recruiting suicide attackers. Two further videos were released Monday, one of which featured Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistan Taliban, threatening more attacks against the United States and its NATO allies.

U.S. officials initially questioned the claim, saying the Pakistani Taliban lack the international reach and have made outlandish, false statements in the past.

However, the Taliban have links to extremist groups, including al-Qaida, that have pulled off attacks outside Pakistan. Some U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials believe militant groups work together in complex attacks, such as the Dec. 30 suicide bombing at a CIA base in Afghanistan that killed seven CIA employees, allowing one organization to claim full responsibility to build morale in its ranks and gain prestige among extremist-minded Muslims.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(File photo by Advocate staff)
Mountain Men’s Barbershop co-owners Laura-Lee Gambee, left, and Heidi Forster pose in their Collingwood, Ont., shop in an undated handout image. Small business owners and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses say companies started in the months leading up to COVID-19 or those that opened during the pandemic don’t qualify for the recently-extended rent or wage subdies or a new hiring subsidy the government announced Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kiley VanderMeer
New, young small businesses left out of federal budget want more aid: CFIB

Eligibility requirements for subsidies need improving

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett takes her seat as she wait to appear before the Indigenous and Northern Affairs committee in Ottawa, March 10, 2020. Federal officials are facing calls for greater clarity on how a proposed new law to harmonize Canada’s laws with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People could affect future development projects and government decisions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Feds pressed to define ‘free, prior and informed consent’ in UNDRIP bill

UNDRIP bill mandates government adopt more inclusive approach

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Bolsonaro: Suicide by COVID

‘Rounding into the home stretch, it’s Italy by a full length, then… Continue reading

Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Red Deer, June 28, 1990. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer and the Royal Family

The recent passing and funeral of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Tanner Pearson, right, celebrates after scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs goalie David Rittich during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Pearson, Sutter each score twice as Canucks dump Leafs 6-3

Everton's Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrates with teammates after scoring his side's second goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, Friday, April 16, 2021. (Peter Powell/Pool via AP)
Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Super League collapses after the 6 English clubs withdraw

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez delivers against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Bogaerts’ 3-run HR, Rodriguez lift BoSox over Blue Jays 4-2

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Pound says Olympic qualifying issues a concern to IOC

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Ontario Hockey League cancels 2020-21 season as COVID-19 cases surge in province

Most Read