A naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan told prosecutors he tried to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square to kill tourists and theater goers, and has been providing information on the terrorist plot, the U.S. said.
Faisal Shahzad was accused of trying to “kill and maim persons” when he drove an improvised bomb into the crowded Manhattan neighborhood May 1, prosecutors said in a complaint unsealed in New York. Authorities said the plot dated back to December. Shahzad faces five counts including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and receiving bomb-making training in the Waziristan region of Pakistan.
Shahzad was arrested last night at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to fly to Dubai. At a press conference in Washington, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Shahzad admitted his role in the bombing attempt.
“This was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country,” Holder said. Shahzad, who lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut, faces as much as life in prison if convicted. His initial appearance in federal court today in Manhattan was canceled, the government said.
Pakistani officials have arrested “alleged facilitators” in that country as part of a “far broader investigation,” Jane Harman, chairwoman of a House of Representatives subcommittee on homeland security and intelligence, said in a statement.
Pakistan’s Dawn television reported that Shahzad had family links in the port city of Karachi, and visited it last year. Pakistan’s Urdu-language news channel, Aaj TV, reported that authorities there have detained 13 people in their investigation of the attempted bombing. The channel didn’t say where it got the information. Holder said the U.S. probe is continuing.
“The FBI and their partners in this process have all the tools and experience they need to learn everything we can, and that includes what, if any, connection this individual has to terrorist groups,” President Barack Obama said today.
Dubai-based Emirates Airlines said U.S. authorities removed three passengers from a New York to Dubai flight last night. Shahzad was arrested after the airliner left the gate and was recalled, according to a person familiar with the arrest.
Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. pledged his country’s support for the ongoing investigation.
“We will cooperate fully with the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, if and when requested, in probing the failed Times Square bombing plot,” Ambassador Husain Haqqani said in a statement.
The suspect became a naturalized U.S. citizen in April 2009 after marrying an American, according to a federal official.
Shahzad reported that he married Huma Mian and identified her as his spouse as he was seeking citizenship, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the continuing investigation. Shahzad didn’t have a criminal record, the official said.
In December 1998, Shahzad was granted a U.S. visa, and he received another one in April 2002, according to the official.
The person familiar with his arrest said Shahzad was traced by law enforcement authorities through his use of a disposable mobile phone. He also was tracked while overseas and identified due to his placement on a no-fly list, said the person, who declined to be identified because the probe is ongoing.
Shahzad was questioned without first receiving his Miranda warnings under a federal public safety exception, the person said. The warnings include telling a suspect that he has the right to remain silent and representation by an attorney. He was given the warnings after initial questioning, the person said.
Congresswoman Harman said Shahzad was subjected to secondary screening when he returned from Pakistan last year and information collected then helped U.S. agents track him down.
“The screening yielded critical contact information that was entered into the system and used in his arrest yesterday,” Harman, a California Democrat, said in the statement. “Dots were correctly and rapidly connected.”
Shahzad was put on the no-fly list yesterday, which was still being distributed when he bought his ticket, she said.
Customs and Border Protection officials, who knew Shahzad was a suspect, identified the flight he was on and removed him from the plane, Harman said.
Shahzad obtained a bachelor’s degree in computer applications and information systems from the University of Bridgeport in 2000 and graduated with an MBA in 2005, Michael Spitzer, the school’s provost, said in an e-mailed statement.
“We have informed relevant U.S. government authorities of Mr. Shahzad’s prior enrollment at the university,” Spitzer said in the statement.
Shahzad worked for three years at a company controlled by Leon Black’s private-equity firm, Apollo Management LP. Affinion Group Holdings Inc., a provider of marketing and customer- loyalty plans, employed Shahzad as a financial analyst in its accounting department from 2006 until 2009, the company said.
A Faisal Shahzad is listed in public records as having lived at addresses in Bridgeport and Shelton, Connecticut, about 60 miles from Manhattan. Today, police in Bridgeport searched a home on Sheridan Street where neighbors said Shahzad once lived. Jose Nieves and Luz Caban, an engaged couple who live across the street from the house, said they were awakened at 1 a.m. by Bridgeport police who shined flashlights in their window, telling them to leave.
‘I Was Scared’
“I was scared,” Caban said. “I thought someone was going to rob us.” Caban, 30, said he had seen Shahzad around the neighborhood, but didn’t have closer contact.
Marilyn Osoria, who lives on an adjacent street, said her children saw Shahzad loading boxes in his home last summer.
“He stuck out to them because he wasn’t dressed in normal clothes,” Osoria said, describing him as wearing a flowing garment. She added that he was accompanied by a teenager.
LaVonne Muse, who lives behind the house, said police and federal agents removed computers and electronic equipment from the house today. She was evacuated due to a bomb threat, she said.
At his previous home in Shelton, about 10 miles north of Bridgeport, Shahzad’s neighbors said he dressed in normal clothes while his wife wore traditional Muslim clothing.
Neighbor Mary Ann Galich, who lived in a house behind the suspect, said “to me, it felt like he was a normal person.”
State Court Records
In September, according to state court records, Chase Home Finance LLC brought a property foreclosure action against a Faisal Zhahzad and Huma Mian in Milford, a town east of Bridgeport near the city of New Haven.
The bomb-laden 1993 Nissan Pathfinder Shahzad allegedly parked off Times Square was sold for cash about three weeks ago at a Connecticut shopping mall in a sale arranged through the Craigslist website, CNN reported, citing an unidentified person in law enforcement with knowledge of the investigation.
Investigators interviewed the former owner of the sport- utility vehicle, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. The person was tracked through the car’s vehicle identification number, which was stripped from the dashboard, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. The number is also typically stamped on parts such as the engine block.
The intended detonator, the police commissioner said, was a can filled with consumer-grade fireworks. The car also held two containers of gasoline and three propane tanks, wired with two clocks, he said.
Bloomberg said today at a press conference that “this was an act that was designed to kill innocent civilians and strike fear into the hearts of Americans and I am happy to say that it failed on both counts.” He added that the city “will not tolerate any bias or backlash against Pakistani or Muslim New Yorkers.”
The police presence has been increased in the Times Square area. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
The case is U.S. v. Shahzad, 10-00928, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).