N.Y. Bomb Plot Suspect Charged With Terrorism
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Faisal Shahzad, the naturalized U.S. citizen who allegedly drove a rusty sport utility vehicle packed with explosives into the heart of New York's Times Square, was charged with terrorism and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in the botched bombing.
At A Glance: Faisal Shahzad
Nationality: Born in Pakistan. Became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2009. Law enforcement officials say he passed all required criminal and national security background checks. Recently spent several months in Pakistan.
Residence: Last known residence in Bridgeport, Conn. Previously owned a home in nearby town of Shelton that went into foreclosure in September after he defaulted on a $200,000 mortgage, according to bank records obtained by The Associated Press.
Authorities say Shahzad bought a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder on Craigslist in April. He is suspected of driving the SUV and parking it in Times Square, where it was found Saturday laden with explosive materials and a crude detonation device.
Shahzad was apprehended at JFK International Airport by customs agents as he tried to take an Emirates flight from New York to Dubai. He made his plane reservation on the way to the airport and paid for the ticket in cash, according to AP.
In a federal complaint issued Tuesday, prosecutors accused Shahzad of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to kill U.S. citizens and carrying a destructive device.
Shahzad allegedly launched the plot in December 2009, according to a sworn statement from FBI agent Andrew Pachtman. After he was arrested late Monday, Shahzad told authorities he had recently received bomb-making training in Waziristan, Pakistan, the court papers said.
Authorities tied Shahzad to the SUV after the car's previous owner identified him in a photo lineup. FBI agents also traced a phone number from a prepaid cell phone that was used to communicate with the SUV's seller. That cell phone was used to make calls to a fireworks store in rural Pennsylvania that sells M-88 fireworks, the same sort that were found in the smoldering SUV, officials said.
Federal agents arrested Shahzad, 30, just before midnight Monday at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to leave the country on a Dubai-bound flight. The Pakistan-born man is providing useful information to authorities, Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference Tuesday.
"It is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country," Holder said. "It is a stark reminder of the reality we face today in this country."
Asked whether Shahzad had admitted his involvement in the bombing attempt, Holder replied, "He has done that."
Once they identified Shahzad, authorities placed him on a federal air travel no-fly list. He was arrested aboard the plane, which had already pulled away from its gate.
FBI scientists in Quantico, Va., were testing rudimentary ingredients found in the SUV, and agents in New York, Connecticut and elsewhere were fanning out to gather evidence and interview witnesses. FBI Deputy Director John Pistole said agents are examining the potential impact of the bomb, which he described as deadly, and trying to uncover "all possible ties" Shahzad may have had ties to radical extremist groups at home and overseas.
Hours after Shahzad's arrest, eight people were detained in Pakistan and questioned over possible involvement.
Intelligence and government sources in Pakistan said Shahzad is originally from a small town known as Mohib Banda in the Northwest Frontier Province. Seven of the suspects arrested in Pakistan were detained in the same province. The eighth person was detained in Karachi, where Shahzad's family, including a brother, wife and two small boys, are living, the sources said. Shahzad recently spent several months in Pakistan.
Pakistani officials have pledged to work closely with the U.S. in the investigation.
No other arrests in the United States are imminent, two law enforcement sources said. Agents were trying to determine whether Shahzad, who has an extensive record of international travel, actually acted on his own, as he told the FBI on Monday night.
Shahzad reportedly provided valuable information to agents almost immediately. Investigators said that even after he was read his right to remain silent, he continued to offer insights.
Authorities said that "eagle-eyed" customs and border patrol agents had spotted Shahzad's name on the Emirates flight manifest Monday evening, less than a day after he had become a person of interest in the case. Top government officials declined to describe how close Shahzad had come to leaving the country.
But Holder, who said he was monitoring events into the early morning hours, told reporters, "I was never in any fear we were in danger of losing him."
New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly pointed out that it took only 53 hours from the discovery of the burning SUV to Shahzad's arrest.
"We know that Jack Bauer can do it in 24," Kelly said, describing the popular television show, "but in the real world, 53 is really a good number."
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano praised New York City street vendors for noticing the SUV. "What happened reflects the critical role the American people play in protecting our security," she said.
President Obama was notified of Shahzad's arrest at 12:05 a.m. Tuesday by counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, press secretary Robert Gibbs said.
The president, making a late-morning address to members of the Business Council in Washington, said Shahzad's arrest and the thwarted New York attack were a "sobering reminder of the times we live in," and showed that terrorists would stop at nothing to kill Americans.
"We will not be terrorized. We will not live in fear," Obama said.
Shahzad, who lives in Connecticut, was born in Pakistan and became a U.S. citizen in April 2009, passing all the criminal and national security background checks required for citizenship.
FBI agents searched his home in a working-class neighborhood in Bridgeport, Conn., early Tuesday, removing filled plastic bags. A bomb squad came and went without entering.
Neighbors offered diverging descriptions of Shahzad but agreed that he kept to himself. One, Brenda Thurman, said Shahzad had told her husband he worked on Wall Street, while another neighbor, Audrey Sokol, said she thought he worked in nearby Norwalk.
Thurman said Shahzad lived in Shelton with his wife and two small children until last year. "He was a little bit strange," she said. "He didn't like to come out during the day."
Sokol, a teacher who lives next door to Shahzad's old house, said he would wave and say hello, and that he seemed normal to her.
Authorities say Shahzad bought the Nissan Pathfinder on Craigslist three weeks ago from another Connecticut man. He reportedly paid cash for the vehicle and never filed any of the paperwork necessary to register it.
Fingerprints were found in the vehicle, which was parked Saturday night on a busy midtown Manhattan street. Authorities said they also found forensic evidence linking Shahzad to some sort of international group, but didn't give many details on that connection.
The Pathfinder was filled with gasoline canisters, propane tanks, fireworks and a gun locker that appeared to have been filled with fertilizer.