Suspect in Times Square plot faces terror charges

May 4, 2010 8:29:34 PM PDT
A U.S. citizen who had recently returned from a five-month trip to his native Pakistan, where he had a wife, was arrested at a New York airport on charges that he drove a bomb-laden SUV meant to cause a fireball in Times Square, federal authorities said. Faisal Shahzad has admitted his role in the botched bombing attempt and is talking to investigators, providing them with valuable information, Attorney General Eric Holder said.

What's in this criminal complaint reads like something out of a Hollywood script.

Ten pages, describing in detail how investigators put the pieces of the puzzle together.

The 30-year-old suspect was expected in court Tuesday, but FBI agents didn't produce him.

He's reportedly still being questioned about the failed Times Square Bombing.

According to the criminal complaint he's been spilling the beans and confessing to investigators.

After his arrest, the complaint says: "Shahzad admitted that he had attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square".

"The whole lethal assembly turned the Pathfinder into one big hurt locker," said NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Inside the Pathfinder, was a potentially lethal concoction of fertilizer, gasoline canisters, propane gas canisters and fireworks.

But something else in the car provided valuable information about the suspect.

According to the complaint investigators say they found 3 keys. One of the keys opens the door to the suspect's Connecticut residence.

Beginning with what they uncovered at the scene in Times Square, investigators followed leads to a series of small victories.

Finding the previous owner of the SUV, she later positively identified the suspect.

Investigators also searched phone records discovering that with a pre-paid cell phone, Shahzad had been in contact with someone from Pakistan shortly before buying the Pathfinder.

Tuesday, justice department officials applauded investigators for their work.

"I want to commend them for their results," said Attorney General, Eric Holder.

But, there have been questions about whether authorities lost track of Shahzad.

He wasn't picked up until he'd made it to JFK Airport.

"Clearly the guy was on the plane and shouldn't have been," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Late Tuesday the federal authorities denied that he'd had gotten on the plane, although, he had somehow avoided being flagged by the "No fly list" he'd been previously put on.

They say he was stopped before boarding a flight to Dubai.

Shahzad was questioned for hours by federal agents at Kennedy Airport after he was taken into custody. During questioning, sources say he made statements to federal authorities that he had acted alone. Nonetheless, federal officials continue to track the three associates who may have helped him.

Shahzad, will face terrorism and weapons of mass destruction charges, Holder said.

"Based on what we know so far, it is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country," he added.

"In the eyes of the terrorist, New York is America, and they keep coming back to kill us," added NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

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U.S. government officials say Shahzad made his flight reservation on the way to the airport and paid for his ticket in cash.

Shahzad and two other unnamed passengers were reportedly taken off the flight. The plane was then searched and passengers re-screened. The flight, delayed for seven hours, departed around 6 a.m. The other two passengers who had been removed were allowed to get back aboard the flight, the airline said.

In Pakistan, intelligence officials say at least one man has been detained in the southern city of Karachi.

The official said Tuesday the man was named Tauseef and was a friend of Shahzad. He did not say when the man was picked up.

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 the FBI was investigating possible ties between Shahzad and terrorist groups.

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's white Izuzu Trooper was seized at JFK airport, and authorities say a gun was found in the car. Police also recently found a hand-drawn map of the 4, 5 and 6 subway lines, as well as the Bowling Green stop and the Staten Island Ferry. The map was found on a Metro North train bound for Connecticut over the past several days, and authorities have reason to believe they were drawn by Shahzad.

"This investigation is ongoing, it is multi-faceted and it is aggressive," Holder said. "As we move forward, we will focus on not just holding those responsible for it accountable, but also on obtaining any intelligence about terrorist organizations overseas."

Shahzad has been answering questions for investigators, an official said, declining to say what information was provided. It's unclear if those conversations will continue.

Federal authorities say they tracked Shahzad over the last two days using evidence from the Nissan Pathfinder left in Times Square. Investigators say Shahzad bought the vehicle a week before the bombing attempt, through a Craig's List ad placed by a family in Connecticut.

Shahzad took the Pathfinder on a test drive in the parking lot of a Bridgeport shopping center, then paid $1,300 for it in $100 bills. The FBI reportedly has a mall surveillance tape of Shahzad driving the car.

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 he had sold the vehicle to a stranger.

As the SUV buyer came into focus, investigators backed off other leads, although Holder said U.S. authorities "will not rest until we have brought everyone responsible to justice," suggesting additional suspects are being sought.

Authorities said another clue in the investigation is a video posted online early Sunday morning by persons in Connecticut, who may have been involved in the bomb attempt and are also being sought by law enforcement. The video, posted on a site registered one day before the attack, has the Taliban in Pakistan claiming responsibility for the attempted bombing.

The SUV was parked on Saturday night on a busy midtown Manhattan street near a theater showing "The Lion King." The explosive device 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 propane tanks afire in a chain reaction "to cause mayhem, to create casualties," police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

A metal rifle cabinet placed 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 explosive device, and no one was hurt.