Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Suspect Held In Times Square Bombing Case

A man was arrested at JFK Airport as he was trying to board a flight to Dubai in connection to the failed bombing in Times Square.
A Pakistan-born U.S. citizen accused of driving a bomb-laden SUV into Times Square and parking it on a street lined with restaurants and Broadway theaters was to appear in court Tuesday to face charges that he tried to set off a massive fireball and kill Americans, federal authorities said.

The suspect, Faisal Shahzad, was taken into custody late Monday by FBI agents and New York Police Department detectives at Kennedy Airport while trying to board a flight to Dubai, according to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and other officials. He was identified by customs agents and stopped before boarding, Holder said early Tuesday in Washington.

Shahzad is a naturalized U.S. citizen and had recently returned from a five-month trip to Pakistan, where he had a wife, according to law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation into the failed car bombing.

The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan was handling the case and said Shahzad would appear in court Tuesday, but the charges were not made public. FBI agents searched the home at a known address for Shahzad in Bridgeport, Conn., early Tuesday, said agent Kimberly Mertz, who wouldn't answer questions about the search.

Authorities removed filled plastic bags from the house overnight in a mixed-race, working-class neighborhood of multi-family homes in Connecticut's largest city. A bomb squad came and went without entering as local police and FBI agents gathered in the cordoned-off street.
It was the use of a disposable cellphone that led the FBI to the suspect. Shahzad will be in federal court today to face charges and it was believed that he had bought the Nissan Pathfinder about three weeks ago for cash via Craigslist.

The person seen in a video taken from the Junior's Restaurant on Shubert Alley doesn't appear to be involved in the bombing.

Shahzad was actually on board the plane and readying for departure when it was called back to the gate and Shahzad was taken into custody, but not before all the passengers and baggage were rescreened.

Three other people were detained from that flight, and it appears that investigators are looking at the possibility that Shahzad trained at a Pakistani terror camp.

Experts believe that Shahzad didn't have sophisticated weapons training, but that the crude weapon he fashioned had the potential to cause mass casualties. Shahzad also claims to have acted alone.

US Attorney General Eric Holder has been holding a presser at which time he said that Shahzad admits to his role in the car bomb attempt. At least two other people have been arrested in Pakistan if reports out of Pakistan are to be believed:
Mr. Shahzad, 30, a naturalized United States citizen from Pakistan, told the authorities that he had acted alone, but hours after he was arrested, security officials in Karachi, Pakistan, said they arrested a Pakistani man who had spent time with Mr. Shahzad during a recent visit there.

Investigators said they arrested the man, Muhammad Rehan, in a mosque in the North Nazimabad area just after morning prayers. The mosque is known for its links with the militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad.

Investigators said Mr. Rehan told them that he had rented a pickup truck and driven with Mr. Shahzad to the northwestern city of Peshawar, where they stayed from July 7 to July 22, 2009. The account could not be independently verified.

Pakistani television reported that as many as eight people had been arrested there on Tuesday, but those reports could not be immediately confirmed.
Moreover, there's no way to know whether those arrests are connected with the Times Square plot. Curiously, Jaish-e-Muhammad is more well known for its terrorism in connection with the disputed territories Jammu and Kashmir along the Line of Control with India than terrorism relating to the US.

Shahzad wasn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. He wasn't exactly a Rhodes Scholar. He also didn't do a good job of hiding his identity and allowed investigators to trace back the bomb to him in any number of ways:
How did investigators zero-in on Shahzad? Officials said they found a bevy of evidence by examining that same SUV. NYPD officials say the VIN – or vehicle identification number – was scratched off the dashboard, but was also stamped on the engine block.

Agents tracked down the SUV's most recent registered owner, a 19-year-old Bridgeport, Conn. woman. She told them Shahzad responded to her online Craigslist ad for the SUV and that he bought it on April 24th for $1,300 cash and paid for it in $100 bills.
His arrest was actually part of a law enforcement operation to not only nab Shahzad, but any potential accomplices here in the US:
Emirates Airlines flight 202 out of John F. Kennedy International Airport, which was bound for Dubai, rolled back from the gate at around 11:45 on Monday night. Shahzad was presumably all buckled in, ready to leave the country and ultimately return to his native Pakistan.

CBS 2 has learned that investigators were already onto Shahzad and laid low, hoping he would make contact with an accomplice. Airport authorities had already instructed the pilots that they were not to take off.
There has been some dispute over exactly where Shahzad was taken into custody and whether he actually made it on the plane.

According to the latest reports, he was allowed to board and be seated aboard the Emirates Air Flt 202 before law enforcement noticed that he was on the no-fly list and should not be allowed to fly:
As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped. By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad's name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate.

But it didn't. At the last minute, the pilot was notified, the jetliner's door was opened and Shahzad was taken into custody.

After authorities pulled Shahzad off the plane, he admitted he was behind the crude Times Square car bomb, officials said. He also claimed to have been trained at a terror camp in Pakistan's lawless tribal region of Waziristan, according to court documents. That raised increased concern that the bombing was an international terror plot.

Shahzad, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, was charged Tuesday with terrorism and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in Saturday evening's failed Times Square bombing. According to a federal complaint, he confessed to buying an SUV, rigging it with a homemade bomb and driving it into the busy area where he tried to detonate it.

The Obama administration played down the fact that Shahzad, a U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, had made it aboard the plane. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wouldn't talk about it, other than to say Customs officials prevented the plane from taking off. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the security system has fallback procedures in place for times like this, and they worked.
The plane wasn't going to take off, but it is disconcerting that he managed to get on the plane at all.

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