- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen who received militant training near a Taliban stronghold in Pakistan, has been arrested in the failed car bombing of New York City’s Times Square — an attack Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. called “a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in this country.”

A five-count criminal complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York said Mr. Shahzad, 30, did “willfully and knowingly” try to kill and maim people inside the United States and created a “substantial risk of serious bodily injury to others.”

The complaint said that after receiving bomb-making training in Pakistan, Mr. Shahzad traveled to the United States, drove a Nissan Pathfinder to Times Square and attempted to detonate explosive and incendiary devices inside the vehicle. It said the sport utility vehicle contained three full propane gas tanks, two 5-gallon gasoline canisters and several plastic bags containing fertilizer, as well as 152 M-88 fireworks and two alarm clocks.

Mr. Shahzad was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 11:45 p.m. Monday by FBI agents and New York Police Department detectives after boarding an overseas flight to Dubai. Identified by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, Mr. Shahzad was removed from Dubai-based Emirates airline Flight 202 after it had been ordered back to the tarmac.

Mr. Holder on Tuesday said Mr. Shahzad “has been and continues to be questioned by federal agents” and that Mr. Shahzad had provided “useful information to authorities.”

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Mr. Shahzad, married and the father of two small children, is expected to be charged with an act of terrorism transcending national borders, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, use of a destructive device during the commission of another crime, and explosives charges.

“Make no mistake — although this car bomb failed to properly detonate — this plot was a serious attempt,” Mr. Holder said. “If successful, it could have resulted in a lethal terrorist attack causing death and destruction in the heart of New York City.”

Born in Karachi, Mr. Shahzad recently returned to the United States after a two-month visit in Pakistan, said U.S. authorities and Pakistani police. They said he traveled to the northeastern city of Peshawar, where the Pakistani army has battled the Taliban.

FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole said Mr. Shahzad was questioned initially by FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force agents and New York Police Department detectives under the public safety exception to the Miranda rule, but later was also read his Miranda rights. He said he was “cooperative” and provided “valuable intelligence and evidence.”

The public safety exception to the Miranda warning allows police to question a criminal suspect immediately for situations in which there is a threat to public safety.

The White House said President Obama was notified of the arrest shortly after midnight.

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama said the American people “can be assured that the FBI and their partners in this process have all the tools and experience they need to learn everything we can. That includes what, if any, connection this individual has to terrorist groups. And it includes collecting critical intelligence as we work to disrupt any future attacks.”

Meanwhile, Pakistani authorities said they had detained several people in Karachi, many of whom were identified as relatives of Mr. Shahzad, in connection with the attempted bombing.

When the vehicle was discovered in Manhattan on Saturday, the complaint said, the material in it was “smoldering; it appeared that the occupant … had attempted to initiate an explosion.”

It also said investigators determined that Mr. Shahzad had purchased a prepaid cell phone that was used to call a fireworks store and to receive a series of calls from Pakistan. The complaint said that after his arrest, Mr. Shahzad admitted he had attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square and that he had received bomb-making training in Pakistan.

The complaint, written by FBI Agent Andrew Pachtman, a member of the bureau’s New York-based Joint Terrorism Task Force, also noted that a second vehicle Mr. Shahzad maintained and drove to the airport was located by law-enforcement authorities at JFK and that agents recovered a gun from inside the vehicle.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Mr. Shahzad had been placed on the agency’s no-fly list when his name surfaced in the investigation, but could not explain why he was allowed to board the Emirates airline flight with a ticket he purchased at the last minute.

Electronic notifications are sent to air carriers when the no-fly lists are updated, but it is up to the carriers to make sure their lists are current. CBP agents located Mr. Shahzad after they received the flight manifest — about 30 minutes before flight was scheduled to take off.

“I think it’s important to understand that the system is built with necessary and built-in redundancy, so that if a name is added and a carrier misses the added name, Customs and Border Protection, once a manifest is locked, runs those names through a center and can identify anything that a carrier may have missed,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

The airline could not be reached for comment.

After Mr. Shahzad’s arrest, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, the New York City Police Department, state police from New York and Connecticut, and Bridgeport police searched a multifamily house in Bridgeport, Conn. Several buildings in the area were cleared and numerous bags were removed from the dwelling, witnesses said.

FBI Special Agent Kimberly Mertz, who heads the bureau’s New Haven, Conn., field office, said officials were carrying out a court-authorized search warrant. Police are reviewing footage from more than 80 video cameras in the area where the SUV was found.

The Taliban in Pakistan took credit on Sunday for planting the Times Square bomb to avenge the killing in April of al Qaeda’s two leaders in Iraq as well as U.S. interference in Muslim countries, although U.S. officials have not verified the claim.

Mr. Holder noted that organized terrorist networks continue to target the United States, along with lone terrorists in this country and abroad. He said as months, even years, go by without a successful terrorist attack, the most dangerous lesson the country can learn is that the threat continues.

“The Department of Justice and our partners in the national security community have no higher priority than disrupting those attempts and bringing those who plot them to justice,” he said. “In this case, that is exactly what the dedicated agents and prosecutors from the department and various law-enforcement agencies have achieved through exemplary investigative efforts.”

Mr. Holder described the ongoing investigation as “multifaceted” and “aggressive,” adding that federal authorities will focus on not just holding those responsible for it accountable, but also on obtaining any intelligence about terrorist organizations overseas.

Anne W. Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and discussed the issue, Pakistani officials and the U.S. Embassy said.

“We have an ongoing cooperation with the United States on anti-terrorism efforts. If required by the United States, we will extend full cooperation to them in this regard,” said Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit.

The Times Square bomb was found after T-shirt vendors Duane Jackson and Lance Orton noticed what they described as a suspicious SUV parked in the area and immediately alerted police. When a responding officer spotted smoke coming out of the van, he ordered an immediate evacuation.

Mr. Jackson, 58, a Vietnam veteran, gave credit to the whole community of vendors in the area, whom he described as “a family looking out for each other.” Mr. Orton, 56, also a Vietnam veteran, said his advice to New Yorkers was, “You see something, say something.”

Immigration records show Mr. Shahzad moved to the United States in 1998 on a student visa. He attended now-closed Southeastern University in Washington, D.C., before transferring to the University of Bridgeport, where he graduated in 2000 with a degree in computer applications and information systems. He received a master’s degree in business administration at the school in 2005.

He was married in 2008 and became a naturalized citizen on April 17, 2009.

Kara Rowland contributed to this report.

• Jerry Seper can be reached at jseper@washingtontimes.com.

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