Faisal Shahzad, the naturalized U.S. citizen who drove a bomb-laden vehicle into New York’s Times Square, was ordered by a federal judge to spend the rest of his life in prison and told to think about “whether the Koran wants you to kill lots of people.”
U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum in Manhattan sentenced Shahzad to life in prison yesterday for the failed terrorist attack on May 1. There is no parole in the federal penal system.
“The defendant has repeatedly expressed his total lack of remorse and his desire, if given the opportunity, to repeat the crime,” Cedarbaum said.
“Allahu Akbar,” Shahzad responded in Arabic, meaning “God is great.” Shahzad, 31, who was born in Pakistan, smiled, nodded and pointed his index finger upward.
Shahzad, a Muslim who worked with the Taliban in Pakistan and traveled to a terrorist training camp just months after becoming a U.S. citizen, was asked by Cedarbaum about his oath of allegiance to his adopted nation.
“I did swear, but I did not mean it,” he replied.
“The Koran gives us the right to defend, and that’s what I’m doing,” he told the judge. He began yesterday’s proceeding by announcing, “If I’m given 1,000 lives I will sacrifice all of them for the life of Allah.”
Shahzad, a former financial analyst who admitted receiving training and funding from the Pakistan Taliban for the foiled attack, used the proceedings to air his condemnation of the U.S.
“Brace yourself, because the war with Muslims has just begun,” Shahzad said. “Consider me only a first droplet of the flood that will follow me.”
Shahzad, who said when he pleaded guilty that he attempted the attack to avenge the deaths of Muslims, yesterday denounced the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The past nine years, the war with Muslims has achieved nothing for the U.S. except it has awakened Muslims from their slumber,” Shahzad said, staring at Cedarbaum. “We are only trying to defend our religion, our people, our honor and our land. If you call us terrorists for doing that, then we are proud terrorists, and we will keep on terrorizing until you leave our land and people at peace.”
Bin Laden, Saladin
Shahzad praised Osama bin Laden and predicted the establishment of a Muslim caliphate. He compared bin Laden to the 12th century Muslim leader Saladin, who recaptured Palestine from European crusaders.
“And so it’s very clear for us Muslims, either we are with the mujahedeen or we are with crusading, losing Christians,” Shahzad said. “There is no in between. Blessed be the immigrants and the leader Sheikh Osama Bin Laden, who will be known as no less than Saladin of the 21st century crusade, and blessed be those who give him asylum.”
Shahzad didn’t let his lawyer address Cedarbaum. He claimed that agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation hadn’t read him his rights and said they had threatened his family.
Shahzad admitted in June that he drove a Nissan Pathfinder laden with improvised explosives into the crowded Manhattan intersection. He fled Manhattan when the bomb failed to detonate and was arrested May 3 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport after boarding a flight to Dubai.
After his arrest, Shahzad cooperated with the U.S. and provided “substantial” information and intelligence, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in May.
White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said yesterday that Shahzad’s case “underscored the strength of our justice system.”
“We are pleased that this terrorist has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, after providing substantial intelligence to our interrogators,” Shapiro said in a phone interview.
“We were able to use everything that he said and everything that we uncovered for intelligence-collection purposes,” Shapiro said. “The case shows once again how our values and the rule of law can keep us safe against those determined to do us harm on behalf of terrorist organizations overseas.”
Shahzad pleaded guilty on June 21 to all 10 terrorism- related charges, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, in an indictment filed by prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan.
The Pathfinder, containing a device made of firecrackers, propane tanks and gasoline canisters, was found abandoned on the street as the items in the back smoldered, the U.S. said.
Shahzad told Cedarbaum when he pleaded guilty that he set the bomb’s detonator to go off within 2 1/2 to 5 minutes and then walked away. He said he folded a loaded 9 mm Kel-Tec rifle that he brought with him, put it in a bag, and walked to Grand Central Terminal train station, about five blocks away.
He told investigators that he planned to detonate a second bomb if he hadn’t been arrested for the attempted May 1 attack, prosecutors have said.
The government argued in court papers that Shahzad deserved a life prison term because his crime was premeditated and because he exploited the benefits of his citizenship to join a foreign terrorist organization intent on attacking the U.S.
After becoming a U.S. citizen in April 2009, Shahzad traveled last December to the Waziristan region of Pakistan, where he stayed with members of the Taliban called the “Tehrik- e-Taliban,” prosecutors said in court papers. He stayed with the group for 40 days and received bomb-making instructions before leaving in January, the U.S. said. He also received about $12,000 to finance the attack, prosecutors said.
Cedarbaum told prosecutors yesterday that she didn’t need to hear from them.
She told Shahzad, “What you have done here, although happily the training you sought in making bombs was unsuccessful and you were unsuccessful in your effort to kill Americans, you have made it plain that all of the factors that I mentioned before require that you be incarcerated for life.”
The courtroom was filled yesterday with FBI agents and New York Police Department investigators who worked on the case. Shahzad was brought into the courtroom rear-handcuffed and escorted by six deputy U.S. marshals.
“Faisal Shahzad is a remorseless terrorist who betrayed his adopted country,” Bharara said in a statement.
Shahzad, who lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut, worked for three years as a financial analyst at Affinion Group Holdings Inc. in its accounting department. Affinion, a provider of marketing and customer-loyalty plans controlled by Leon Black’s private-equity firm, Apollo Management LP, employed Shahzad from 2006 until 2009, the company said in May.
‘Forfeit His Freedom’
“It’s totally appropriate that he forfeit his freedom because he was willing to forfeit people’s lives,” New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a news conference.
Shahzad’s “sentence sends a clear and unequivocal message to those who seek to do us harm; our justice system is swift and strong,” U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York said in a statement. “Let this be a warning to others who would attempt to attack us: you will be caught; you will be held to account; and justice will be brought down upon you.”
The case is U.S. v. Shahzad, 10-00928, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at email@example.com.