Times Square Bomb Suspect Faisal Shahzad Nabbed Trying to Flee U.S.
FBI Says Faisal Shahzad Bought Vehicle That Carried Bomb on April 24, After Trip to Pakistan
By RICHARD ESPOSITO, BRIAN ROSS and PIERRE THOMAS
May 4, 2010—
The FBI has arrested a 30-year-old Bridgeport, Conn., man in connection with the failed attempt to set off a car bomb in New York’s Times Square, federal authorities told ABCNews.com late Monday night.
The man was identified as Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen, who had recently returned from a five-month trip to Pakistan and the city of Peshawar, a known jumping off point for al Qaeda and Taliban recruits.
Shahzad was arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City where FBI agents said he was attempting to leave the country to go to Dubai.
At a press conference early Monday morning, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “It’s clear that the intent behind this terrorist act was to kill Americans.” He urged America to “remain vigilant.”
Federal authorities told ABC News that they tracked Shahzad over the last two days using evidence found in the Nissan Pathfinder left at the scene and in the unexploded bomb components.
According to authorities, Shahzad bought the vehicle on April 24, one week before the bombing attempt, through an Internet ad placed by a Connecticut family.
Members of the family told the FBI that Shahzad paid $1,300 for the vehicle in $100 bills after taking the Pathfinder on a test drive in the parking lot of a Bridgeport shopping center. FBI agents recovered a shopping center surveillance tape that they say shows Shahzad driving the car, authorities said.
He later had the windows on the car tinted, officials said, prior to driving it to New York City last Saturday.
Federal law enforcement officials said at least three other people close to Shahzad were also under scrutiny in connection with the case.
Times Square Bomb
One Monday, ABC News reported that there is growing evidence the bomber did not act alone and had ties to radical elements overseas, with one senior official telling ABC News there are several individuals believed to be connected with the bombing.
Officials declined to provide the specifics that led them to believe there were overseas links to a larger plot.
Authorities said a clue in the investigation was a video posted online early Sunday morning by persons in Connecticut, who may have been involved in the bomb attempt. The video, posted on a site registered one day before the attack, has the Taliban in Pakistan claiming responsibility for the attempted bombing.
Though a Taliban leader thought killed in a U.S. drone strike resurfaced in the video threatening attacks on U.S. cities, and the Taliban has claimed credit for the failed New York attack, U.S. authorities are skeptical.
The would-be bomber packed the car with more than 100 pounds of fertilizer, but not the kind that would explode, police said.
Had the bomber chosen the right kind of fertilizer, the bomb would have had the force of more than 100 pounds of TNT. But instead of ammonium nitrate, the kind of fertilizer used by Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, the bomber used a harmless fertilizer, New York City Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said.
The license plate on the car was apparently stolen from an auto repair shop outside Bridgeport, Conn., according to law enforcement officials.
The authorities told ABC News that the previous owner provided a description of the man who bought the car, and told investigators the vehicle was sold for several hundred dollars in cash, with no written records identifying the purchaser.
The license plate found on the Pathfinder also came from Connecticut, #98CY09, according to photographs of the vehicle.
Times Square Bomb
The surrounding area was evacuated after street vendor Duane Jackson saw smoke coming from the Pathfinder and alerted police. Jackson, who has been working in Times Square for 13 years, said he is always on alert in the crowded public space, and in touch with police. “Vigilance is the key,” said Jackson. “Keep your wits about you [and] don’t take anything for granted.”
Police moved back thousands of theatergoers and tourists as the bomb squad moved in.
Technicians blew open the back doors and trunk and found the car packed with propane canisters and gasoline containers.
“Clearly it was the intent of whoever did this to cause mayhem,” said New York police commissioner Ray Kelly.
But the detonator, alarm clocks hooked up to fire crackers, failed to work.
“They would not have been able to have stopped the bomb if it had been wired properly,” said former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, now an ABC News consultant. “Someone was able to drive into New York with what looks like bomb parts, drive right into the heart of Times Square, pull up on the sidewalk, jump up and run away and not get caught.”
The bomb bore similarities to two Al Qaeda-connected attacks on a London nightclub and an airport in Scotland in 2007. Three vehicles used in the attempted bombings contained propane gas tanks.
Al Qaeda has posted videos showing how to construct a bomb using propane tanks and gasoline.
On Sunday night, the Taliban released a video featuring Hakimullah Mehsud, who U.S. and Pakistani authorities had thought was killed in a drone strike in January.
On the recording Mehsud can be heard saying, “The time is very near when our fedayeen will attack the American states in their major cities.” He also claims that Taliban fedayeen “have penetrated the terrorist America, we will give extremely painful blows to the fanatic America.”
Mehsud’s video was recorded April 4, and Mehsud threatens attacks in the days and weeks to come.
Earlier, in the hours after the failed Times Square bombing, a Taliban group in Pakistan claimed responsibility for what it called a “jaw-breaking blow to Satan’s USA.
But U.S. officials expressed doubt about a Taliban connection.
Mayor Bloomberg said that so far there was “no legitimate evidence” the Taliban or al Qaeda were involved. “There’s one group of the Taliban that claims credit for everything, including traffic jams,” said Bloomberg.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano noted on Good Mormng America that there is a history of groups trying to claim credit for attacks. But she did not rule out any groups. “What we have is a real attempt at an attack,” said Napolitano. “Law enforcement is pursuing leads.”