U.S. arrests Pakistani-American over failed car bomb

By Michelle Nichols and Jeremy Pelofsky

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – A Pakistani-American man has been arrested for allegedly driving a bomb-laden car into New York’s Times Square on Saturday night, U.S. authorities said on Tuesday.

Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, was seized at about 11:45 p.m. on Monday (0345 GMT on Tuesday) at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as he attempted to take a flight to Dubai, local and federal officials said.

“The intent behind this terrorist act was to kill Americans,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told an early morning news conference.

Faisal will appear in federal court on Tuesday to face charges of “driving a car bomb into Times Square on the evening of May 1,” according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, FBI agent George Venizelos and New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Shahzad, 30, is believed to have bought the 1993 Nissan sport utility vehicle used to carry the crude bomb, made of fuel and fireworks, into Times Square as the theater and shopping area was packed with people on a warm Saturday evening. Had the bomb detonated, many people could have died, officials said.

Authorities searched Shahzad’s home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the FBI said on Tuesday. An FBI spokeswoman did not say what authorities had found.

For New Yorkers who bore the brunt of the September 11 attacks by al Qaeda militants in 2001, the scare was a reminder that their city of 8 million people remained under constant threat.

Emirates, the airline whose flight Shahzad had boarded in New York before being detained, said in a statement that three passengers were removed from the plane.

“Full security procedures were activated including the deplaning of all passengers and a thorough screening of the aircraft, passengers and baggage,” an Emirates spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement.

Pakistan pledged to help the United States in the case.

“We will cooperate with the United States in identifying this individual and bringing him to justice,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters.

‘REMAIN VIGILANT’

“This investigation is ongoing, as are our attempts to gather useful intelligence, and we continue to pursue a number of leads,” Holder said, adding that “it’s important that the American people remain vigilant.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said President Barack Obama was notified of the arrest just after midnight by his counterterrorism chief, John Brennan, after being briefed six times on Monday about the investigation.

Law enforcement sources told Reuters that Saturday’s attempted attack may have involved more than one person and could have international ties. The New York Times said Shahzad had recently returned from a trip to Pakistan.

The Taliban in Pakistan said on Sunday it planted the bomb to avenge the killing in April of al Qaeda’s two top leaders in Iraq as well as U.S. interference in Muslim countries.

Some officials voiced skepticism about the claim. But former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, who last year oversaw an Obama administration strategy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan, cautioned against dismissing a Taliban role.

“They have said they want to attack inside the United States,” he said before the arrest was announced, adding it was possible the incident involved “some Pakistani-American who has never built a car bomb before in his life but who is being coached either by phone or Internet.”

Pakistan is a key ally to the United States and other NATO countries fighting the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan but is also seen as a training ground for Islamist militants.

The failed bombing was the second significant plot in nine months targeting New York City. An Afghan immigrant, Najibullah Zazi, has pleaded guilty to plotting a suicide bombing campaign on Manhattan’s subway system last September.

U.S. authorities disrupted that plot before Zazi and his accused accomplices were able to carry it out. Another Afghan-born man has pleaded guilty for his role in the plot.

“As we move forward, we will focus on not just holding those responsible for it (the failed bombing) accountable, but also on obtaining any intelligence about terrorist organizations overseas,” Holder said.

‘INCOMPETENT ATTACK’

Garry Hindle, head of security and counterterrorism at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute think tank, said: “We’ve been saying for a long time that this type of incompetent attack is the trend. If it follows the pattern of previous incidents, we can expect to uncover an amount of prior overseas travel, instruction from trainers and a search for inspiration from radicalizers abroad.”

The hunt for clues and suspects is being overseen by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, led by the U.S. Justice Department, as investigators pore over surveillance camera footage, the Nissan Pathfinder and the bomb parts.

Street vendors selling T-shirts and handbags alerted police on Saturday evening to the smoking and sparking vehicle that was parked with its engine running and hazard lights on near a Broadway theater where Disney’s “The Lion King” is performed.

The Pathfinder, with a rear license plate taken from a car now in a repair shop in Connecticut, was rigged with propane gas cylinders, gasoline cans, fertilizer, fireworks and timing devices.

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(Additional reporting by Dan Trotta in New York; Jeff Mason, JoAnne Allen and Will Dunham in Washington, and William Maclean in London; Editing by John O’Callaghan and Will Dunham)

U.S. arrests Pakistani-American over failed car bomb