Tuesday, May 4, 2010

NYC bomb suspect seized aboard Dubai-bound plane

By TOM HAYS and COLLEEN LONG , 05.04.10, 01:10 PM EDT

NEW YORK -- A Pakistani-born U.S. citizen was hauled off a plane about to fly to the Middle East and arrested in the failed attempt to explode a bomb-laden SUV in Times Square, authorities said Tuesday. One official said he claimed to have acted alone.

Faisal Shahzad was on board a Dubai-bound flight that was taxiing away from the gate at Kennedy Airport when the plane was stopped and FBI agents and New York Police Department detectives took him into custody late Monday, law enforcement officials said.

U.S. authorities "will not rest until we have brought everyone responsible to justice," Attorney Eric Holder said early Tuesday, suggesting additional suspects are being sought.

In Pakistan, intelligence officials said at least one man has been detained in the southern city of Karachi in connection with the Times Square case: a man named Tauseef who was a friend of Shahzad. He did not say when the man was picked up.

Another Pakistani official said several people had been taken into custody since the failed attack. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of their work.

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 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.

Shahzad, 30, had recently returned from a five-month trip 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 into the failed car bombing.

Shahzad became a naturalized U.S. citizen last year shortly before traveling to Pakistan, a federal law enforcement official in Washington said, speaking on condition of anonymity amid the ongoing 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 has been answering questions for investigators, the official said, declining to say what information was provided. It's unclear if those conversations will continue.

A Pakistani TV station reported that Shahzad spent time in Karachi and visited the northwestern city of Peshawar during his stay in Pakistan. Peshawar is a gateway for foreigners seeking to travel into nearby tribal regions, where militant groups have long had sanctuary.

In Washington, Pakistani Embassy spokesman Nadeem Haider Kiani said it's too soon to tell what motivated the bomber. Asked whether there were ties to foreign terrorist groups, Kiani said early indications suggest the bomber was "a disturbed individual."

Another law enforcement official said Shahzad was not known to the U.S. intelligence community before the failed bombing attempt, in which authorities found a crude bomb of gasoline, propane and fireworks in a 1993 Nissan ( NSANY - news - people ) Pathfinder parked on a bustling street in Times Square.

The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan was handling the case and said Shahzad would appear in court later Tuesday, but the charges were not made public. FBI agents searched the home at a known address for Shahzad in Bridgeport, Conn., early Tuesday, said agent Kimberly Mertz, who wouldn't answer questions about the search.

Authorities removed filled plastic bags from the house in a mixed-race, working-class neighborhood of multifamily homes in Connecticut's largest city. A bomb squad came and went without entering as local police and FBI agents gathered in the cordoned-off street. FBI agents appeared to have found fireworks in the driveway that they were marking off as evidence.

Shahzad was being held in New York and couldn't be contacted. A phone number at a listed address for Shahzad in Shelton, Conn., wasn't in service.

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

A neighbor in Bridgeport described him as quiet.

"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 $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 first 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 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. As the SUV buyer came into focus, investigators backed off other leads.

The SUV was parked near a theater 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 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 knock out windows.

A vendor alerted a police officer to the parked SUV, which was smoking. Times Square, clogged with tourists on a warm evening, was shut down for 10 hours. A bomb squad dismantled the bomb and no one was hurt.

Holder urged Americans should remain vigilant.

"It's clear that the intent behind this terrorist act was to kill Americans," he 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 traveling 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. The airline did not identify Shahzad by name or name the other two passengers.

The aircraft and passengers were then screened again before taking off Tuesday morning, and the airline is "cooperating with the local authorities," Emirates said in a statement e-mailed to the AP. The other two passengers who had been removed were allowed to get back aboard the flight, the airline said.

Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the AP that authorities had not been formally asked for help in the investigation but would cooperate if asked.

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, a Denver-area airport shuttle driver 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; 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.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Breaking News: Pakistan makes arrest over Times Square bomb



Pakistani authorities have detained at least one man in connection with the Times Square bombing attempt in New York, two intelligence officials said Tuesday.

The man, identified as Tauseef, was a friend of Faisal Shahzad, the American of Pakistani origin who is in custody in the United States over the failed attack, one official said. He was arrested in the southern city of Karachi, said the official, who like all Pakistani spies refuses to be named in the media.

Another official said several people had been taken into custody in Karachi since the failed attack Saturday.

Neither said when the detentions had taken place. They said no charges had been filed.

Shahzad was arrested in New York on Monday as he was about to board a flight to Dubai.

U.S. officials have said the 30-year-old had recently returned from Pakistan, raising speculation he may have been in contact with al-Qaida or Taliban groups in the South Asian country.


Associated Press Writer Zarar Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.

Times Square Wannabe-Bomber in Custody

New York (CNN) -- Authorities hunting for the suspect in the botched Times Square bombing dramatically beat the clock overnight, seizing a Pakistani-American citizen moments before he began a long trip to his strife-torn homeland.
Faisal Shahzad, 30, was arrested around 11:45 p.m. ET Monday at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, said Attorney General Eric Holder.

Shahzad will appear in a Manhattan federal courtroom Tuesday to face formal charges in the case.
Shahzad was on board Emirates Airlines Flight 202 to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and the jetway had been pulled back when the plane was called to return to the gate, a law enforcement source said. Shahzad was booked through to Islamabad, Pakistan, via Dubai, a senior airline official confirmed.

"They just caught him at the last second," a law enforcement source said.
Security officials removed three passengers from the flight late Monday, including Shahzad -- who was taken into custody, the senior airline official said.
Video: Who is Faisal Shahzad? Video: NYC bomb plot suspect arrested Video: Police comb neighborhood Video: Bomb suspect naturalized citizen

Authorities searched the plane, luggage and checked all passengers again before the flight took off early Tuesday for Dubai minus the other two passengers who were removed with Shahzad, the airline official said.
Cell phone calls helped lead police to the suspect in the failed bombing attempt, authorities said Tuesday.

Police have been engaged in a furious manhunt in the New York area for those responsible for an intended terrorist attack Saturday night in the heart of Manhattan's Times Square.
According to a source familiar with the investigation, the individuals didn't have the expertise to detonate a parked Nissan Pathfinder containing propane tanks, fertilizer and gasoline.

Authorities focused on Shahzad when they traced evidence to him from the sale of the Nissan Pathfinder used in the failed attack -- information considered the linchpin of the case.
The Nissan Pathfinder had its vehicle identification number removed from the dashboard. Police climbed under the SUV and retrieved the VIN from the bottom of its engine block.
This breakthrough led investigators to the registered owner of the vehicle and then to Shahzad, who purchased the SUV, the official said.

The Nissan Pathfinder had been sold three weeks ago in a cash deal with no paperwork exchanged, a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation said Monday. The $1,800 deal was closed at a Connecticut shopping mall, where the buyer handed over the money and drove off, the source said.

With memories of the September 11, 2001, attack fresh in the minds of police, detectives pored through video cameras of Times Square and worked to determine who carried out the action -- international terrorists, a lone individual or other networks.
John Brennan, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, kept the president abreast of the probe throughout Monday and informed him of Shahzad's arrest early Tuesday, the White House said.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a statement praising the 48 hours or so "impressive" law enforcement spadework.

Hours after the arrest, police were seen at a house in a Bridgeport, Connecticut, working-class neighborhood as part of the investigation. Agents with the FBI and local police, including members of a bomb squad, conducted a search, and investigators removed filled plastic bags.
Another law enforcement source said Shahzad claimed to have acted alone in the attempted bombing, but the Joint Terrorism Task Force investigating the bombing attempt has said it's considering the possibility that the attempt involved more than just a "lone wolf."

While police continued to piece together information about Shahzad, they learned he traveled to
Dubai before, most recently in June 2009 and returned to the United States in early February, a law enforcement official said.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Shahzad has a Karachi identification card, a sign of Pakistani residency, and that his family is from volatile northwestern Pakistan, where government forces have been fighting Taliban militants, who have strongholds in the area.
Shahzad became a U.S. citizen on April 17, 2009, which aided investigators in the case, the federal law enforcement source said. Because of his recent change in residency status, authorities had his picture and were able to show it to the seller of the vehicle, who identified Shahzad as the purchaser.

The device inside the Pathfinder was made up of propane tanks, gasoline and fertilizer that turned out to be of a nonexplosive grade, along with a metal pot containing wiring and firecrackers. More firecrackers were found in a can on the back seat of the vehicle, sandwiched between two full, 5-gallon gasoline cans and connected by wires to clocks.

New York police have been examining the device for clues such as fingerprints, hair and fibers since Saturday. The vehicle and bomb components were taken to the FBI's forensic laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, on Monday, FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said Monday evening.


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