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U.S. Citizen From Pakistan Due in Court on New York Bomb Plot

FBI Agents search the home of Faisal Shahzad
FBI Agents search the home of Faisal Shahzadin Bridgeport, Connecticut. Photographer: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

May 4 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S. citizen of Pakistani origins is due in a New York court today to face charges over the attempted car bombing in Times Square on May 1.

Faisal Shahzad will appear in Manhattan federal court on “formal charges,” the U.S. attorney’s office for the southern district of New York said in an e-mailed statement, without being more specific.

Agents from the Department of Homeland Security arrested Shahzad at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport last night as he was attempting to board a flight to Dubai, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said at an early morning news conference in Washington. The announcement came less than three days after a botched bombing attempt that led police to evacuate parts of Times Square.

“This investigation is ongoing, as are our attempts to gather useful intelligence, and we continue to pursue a number of leads,” Holder said. “But it’s clear that the intent behind this terrorist act was to kill Americans.”

Shahzad had recently returned from a five-month trip to Pakistan, where he had a wife, the Associated Press reported citing unidentified law enforcement officials. Pakistan’s Dawn television reported today that the suspect had family links in the port city of Karachi, and visited it last year.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, in an interview on NBC TV, said it’s “premature to rule in or out” links to international terrorism. Investigators have no evidence that Pakistani Taliban sympathizers were responsible for the attempt, although a group describing itself as such took credit for it, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Passengers Removed

Dubai-based Emirates Airlines said in an e-mailed statement today that U.S. authorities removed three passengers from a New York to Dubai flight last night and carried out “full security procedures” including the screening of the plane, passengers and baggage.

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and New York City police detectives arrested Shahzad for “allegedly driving a car bomb into Times Square on the evening of May 1,” the Department of Justice said in a statement today.

The 1993 Nissan Pathfinder 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 bomb-carrying 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.

‘Intended to Terrorize’

The attempted bombing “was intended to terrorize,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said yesterday. Gibbs said today that President Barack Obama was notified about Shahzad’s arrest at around midnight.

The intended detonator, Kelly 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, the commissioner said.

A man described as about 40 years old was seen on a neighborhood surveillance camera as he hurried through Shubert Alley, a pedestrian walkway between West 44th and West 45th Streets, steps from where the explosive-laden car was parked on May 1, he said.

The man can be seen on the video removing a dark shirt, revealing a red T-shirt underneath, Kelly said. He placed the outer shirt in a bag and walked from the scene “in a furtive manner,” the commissioner said.

Safe as Ever

Police also collected images of the vehicle as it traveled along West 45th Street before being left at a curb near several Broadway theaters, the mayor said.

“This city is as safe as it’s ever been,” Bloomberg said. “Is it perfectly safe? No, but we always will have events, we’ve had 11 or so in the last eight years, and every time we have responded appropriately. We keep changing our procedures, we keep studying what happens overseas, and we so far have done the right thing.”

The police presence has been increased in the Times Square area. Bloomberg urged tourists and New Yorkers to continue visiting the area and “enjoy a Broadway show.”

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Goldman in New York City Hall at hgoldman@bloomberg.net; Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net.

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