Pakistani-born U.S. citizen charged with terrorism in Times Square bomb plot

NEW YORK — A Pakistani-born U.S. citizen was charged Tuesday with terrorism and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in the botched Times Square bombing.

A photo from the social networking site Orkut.com

A photo from the social networking site Orkut.com

NEW YORK — A Pakistani-born U.S. citizen was charged Tuesday with terrorism and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in the botched Times Square bombing. The government said he confessed to receiving explosives training in Pakistan.

Faisal Shahzad — the son of an air force officer in a wealthy Pakistani family — was arrested Monday night, pulled off a plane that was about to fly to the Middle East.

According to the complaint, Shahzad confessed to buying an SUV, rigging it with a homemade bomb and driving it Saturday night into Times Square, where he tried to detonate it.

In Pakistan, intelligence officials said several people had been detained in connection with the Times Square case. But a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press the FBI is not aware of any arrests in Pakistan related to the case.

Shahzad admitted to receiving bomb-making training in Waziristan, the lawless tribal region where the Pakistani Taliban operates with near impunity, but there is no mention of al-Qaida in the complaint filed in Manhattan federal court. The complaint said he returned from Pakistan in February, telling an immigration agent that he had been visiting his parents for five months and had left his wife behind.

“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,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in Washington.

Shahzad was on board a Dubai-bound flight that was taxiing away from the gate at Kennedy Airport late Monday when the plane was turned around and federal authorities took him into custody, law enforcement officials said. Federal officials had placed him on a “no-fly” list hours before his arrest.

Holder said Shahzad was talking to investigators, providing them with valuable information, The FBI read Shahzad his constitutional rights after he provided the information, and he continued to co-operate, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole said.

Shahzad’s court appearance Tuesday was delayed, in part because he was co-operating with authorities.

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 raised the alarm about the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder rigged with a crude bomb made of gasoline, propane and fireworks. The SUV, which had begun smoking, was parked on a bustling street 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.

Shahzad, 30, became a naturalized U.S. citizen last year shortly before travelling to Pakistan, where he had a wife, according to law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

Investigators hadn’t established an immediate connection to the Pakistani Taliban — which had claimed responsibility for the botched bombing in three videos — or any foreign terrorist groups, a law enforcement official told the AP.

“He’s claimed to have acted alone, but these are things that have to be investigated,” the official said.

Shahzad is the son of a former top Pakistani air force officer and deputy director general of the civil aviation authority, according to Kifyat Ali, the cousin of Faisal Shahzad’s father.

Ali told reporters outside a two-story home in an upmarket part of Peshawar, the main city in northwestern Pakistan, that the family had yet to be officially informed of Shahzad’s arrest in the United States.

“This is a conspiracy so the (Americans) can bomb more Pashtuns,” Ali said, referring to a major ethnic group in Peshawar and the nearby tribal areas of Pakistan and southwest Afghanistan. “He was never linked to any political or religious party here.”

He said Faisal often stayed in Peshawar when he came back from the United States.

His mother and father, retired Air Vice Marshall Baharul Haq, had left the house for an undisclosed location because of the media interest.

One man detained in Karachi was identified only as Tauseef and was a friend of Shahzad, according to one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Pakistani intelligence officers insist on anonymity as a matter of policy. Media reports described some of the others detained as relatives of Shahzad.

In Washington, Pakistani Embassy spokesman Nadeem Haider Kiani said early indications suggest the bomber was “a disturbed individual.”

Authorities removed filled plastic bags and a bomb squad came and went from a Bridgeport, Conn., house listed in Shahzad’s name Tuesday in a working-class neighbourhood of multifamily homes in Connecticut’s largest city. FBI agents found a box of consumer-grade firecrackers and other fireworks in the driveway that they were marking off as evidence.

Shahzad used to live in a two-story greyish-brown colonial with a sloping yard in a working-class neighbourhood in Shelton, Conn. The home looked as if it had been unoccupied for a while, with grass growing in the driveway and bags of garbage lying about.

He graduated from the University of Bridgeport with a bachelor’s degree in computer applications and information systems in 2000 and later returned to earn a master’s in business administration in 2005, the school said.

“Nobody ever had a problem with him,” said Dawn Sampson, 34, who lives across the street from Shahzad’s third-floor apartment. She said he had remodeled it and had put on the market to rent for US$1,200, a fee she thought was much too high.

Law enforcement officials say Shahzad paid $1,300 cash three weeks ago for the Pathfinder, going for a test-drive in a mall and offering less than the $1,800 advertised price. Peggy Colas, 19, of Bridgeport, sold the car to Shahzad after he answered an Internet ad, law enforcement officials said. The officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.

The complaint said Shahzad apparently tinted the windows of the Pathfinder after buying it, and took several cellphone calls from Pakistan before making a call to purchase the SUV.

The vehicle identification number had been removed from the Pathfinder’s dashboard, but it was stamped on the engine, and investigators used it to find the owner of record, who told them a stranger bought it.

Another law enforcement official said Shahzad was not known to the U.S. intelligence community before the bombing attempt.

Shahzad was placed on a “no-fly” list Monday after he was identified as the SUV’s buyer, Pistole said. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declined to say how Shahzad was able to board the flight if he was on the “no-fly” list.

The SUV was parked near a theatre where the musical “The Lion King” was being performed. The bomb inside it had cheap-looking alarm clocks connected to a 16-ounce can filled with fireworks, which were apparently intended to detonate gas cans and set off propane tanks in a chain reaction “to cause mayhem, to create casualties,” police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

A metal rifle cabinet in the SUV’s cargo area was packed with fertilizer, but NYPD bomb experts believe it was incapable of exploding 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 knock out windows.

A vendor alerted a police officer to the smoking SUV parked on a street clogged with a pre-theatre crowd on a warm evening. Times Square was shut down for 10 hours and a bomb squad dismantled the device. No one was hurt.

“It’s clear that the intent behind this terrorist act was to kill Americans,” Holder said.

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.

Authorities did not address Shahzad’s plans in Dubai. The airport there is the Middle East’s busiest and is a major transit point for passengers travelling between the West and much of Asia, particularly India and Pakistan.

Dubai-based Emirates airline said three passengers were pulled from Flight EK202, which was delayed for about seven hours; two were later allowed to get back on board. The airline did not identify Shahzad by name or name the other two passengers.

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; Najibullah Zazi, of Denver, who pleaded guilty in February in a plot to bomb New York subways; and a Pennsylvania woman who authorities say became radicalized online as “Jihad Jane” and plotted to kill a Swedish artist whose work offended Muslims.

———

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Eileen Sullivan, Pete Yost, Matt Apuzzo and Julie Pace in Washington; Larry Neumeister and Sara Kugler in New York, Chris Brummitt in Islamabad, Adam Schreck in Dubai, AP Video journalist Ted Shaffrey and writer John Christoffersen in Bridgeport, Conn.; and AP photojournalist Doug Healey in Shelton, Conn.

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

Just Posted

Several cases of COVID-19 were reported among employees of stores at Bower Place Mall. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
COVID-19 cases reported at Bower Place mall stores

AHS said five complaints were investigated since March, and required changes made

Edmonton Eskimos' Tanner Green, right, knocks the ball from Calgary Stampeders' Romar Morris during first half CFL football action in Calgary in 2019. Green has been waiting for nearly 17 months to get back on the field with the Edmonton Football Team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Lacombe’s Tanner Green happy to finally see a CFL return to play date

CFL announced Wednesday league will return on Aug. 5

Instructor Brandt Trimble leads an outdoor spin class at RYDE RD. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Fitness facilities continue to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions

‘It’s really frustrating to be one of the targeted businesses’

Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins (Photo contributed)
Federal budget strangles job growth, says MP Blaine Calkins

‘It is most certainly not a balanced budget’

Westerner Park’s Exhibition Hall was used as a vaccination clinic on Wednesday. A steady stream of people came to get their COVID-19 shots either by appointment or as walk-ins. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
No long lineups at walk-in vaccination site in Red Deer

A steady stream of people walked into Westerner Park on Wednesday to… Continue reading

Halifax author tackles notorious tale of N.S. family in new novel

Halifax author tackles notorious tale of N.S. family in new novel

The Rogers Logo is photographed in Toronto office on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
Rogers CEO ‘deeply disappointed’ software upgrade caused wireless outage

TORONTO — The chief executive of Rogers Communications Inc. said Wednesday that… Continue reading

Governor of the Bank of Canada Tiff Macklem holds a press conference at the Bank Of Canada in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Bank of Canada keeps rate on hold, sees brighter economic outlook

Bank of Canada keeps rate on hold, sees brighter economic outlook

Pumpjacks pump crude oil in Alberta on June 20, 2007.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Court asked to step in as SanLing Energy warns it intends to stop operations

Court asked to step in as SanLing Energy warns it intends to stop operations

Canadian Pacific Railway president and CEO Keith Creel addresses the company's annual meeting in Calgary, Wednesday, May 10, 2017.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CP Rail asks U.S. regulator to rule on its and CN’s rival Kansas City Southern bids

CP Rail asks U.S. regulator to rule on its and CN’s rival Kansas City Southern bids

A man walks into a Cargill meat processing factory. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Site of COVID outbreak last year: Vaccination clinic at Alberta meat plant postponed

HIGH RIVER, Alta. — A COVID-19 vaccination clinic for thousands of workers… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks at a television screen as he listens to United States President Joe Biden deliver a statement during a virtual joint statement following a virtual meeting in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘We hope to help a little more’: Biden says he spoke to Trudeau about more vaccines

WASHINGTON — Canada can look forward to an unexpected shot in the… Continue reading

The Mission Correctional Institution in Mission, B.C. is pictured Tuesday, April 14, 2020. A new federal study found that people released from prison were much more likely than the general population to have trouble finding gainful employment, even over a decade after returning to society. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Ease employment hurdles for former prison inmates, federal study urges

OTTAWA — A new federal study found that people released from prison… Continue reading

Most Read