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Published: Wednesday, 5/5/2010

Papers say bomb suspect trained in Taliban area

BLADE NEWS SERVICES

NEW YORK - A Pakistani-American charged with plotting to detonate a car bomb in Times Square received explosives training in Pakistan's Waziristan region, a Taliban stronghold, and admitted driving an SUV from his Connecticut home to Manhattan in hopes of blowing it up on a crowded corner, according to a complaint unsealed yesterday.

Additional arrests in the case were reported in Pakistan, which according to the five-count complaint was where Faisal Shahzad, 30, began preparing for Saturday's attack as long ago as December.

The allegations include the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and an attempt to kill or maim, as well as other terrorism-related charges involving the transport of the explosives.

"A far broader investigation is ongoing, and alleged facilitators in Pakistan have already been arrested," said Rep. Jane Harman (D., Calif.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee on Intelligence. "Our liaison relationship with Pakistan intelligence is yielding impressive results," she said.

Ms. Harman did not identify the others arrested, but Pakistani intelligence officials said authorities in Karachi had arrested two men whom Mr. Shahzad visited in the city over the summer.

The sources did not know whether the men were linked to any Pakistani militant group.

Law enforcement officials said Mr. Shahzad, who was arrested late Monday as he attempted to fly out of the United States, confessed to the bomb plot, and was cooperating with investigators.

"He has been talking to us and providing us with useful information," Attorney General Eric Holder said.

Investigators have said it is too early to say whether Mr. Shahzad worked alone or as part of a group, and whether he was operating on behalf of a terrorist organization such as the Pakistani Taliban, which has claimed responsibility for Saturday's failed attack.

Mr. Shahzad told investigators when he was arrested that he had "recently received bomb-making training in Waziristan," the complaint alleged.

The complaint said he had returned Feb. 3 from a five-month trip to Pakistan, claiming he was visiting his parents.

Details contained in the 10-page complaint make it clear that despite his training, Mr. Shahzad was far from smooth as he tried to complete his mission.

Among evidence collected was a key to Mr. Shahzad's Bridgeport, Conn., home; it was among those dangling from the ignition of the SUV when he left it on West 45th Street near Broadway.

And cell-phone records show him receiving several calls from Pakistan as he purchased the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder used in the failed attack.

Material taken from Mr. Shahzad's rented home - searched by FBI agents yesterday - included fertilizer and fireworks, both of which were used in constructing the car bomb.

The bomb failed to detonate properly, but New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said it would have created a "significant fireball" and sent shrapnel flying through crowded streets if it had succeeded.

Mr. Shahzad, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in April, 2009, apparently was not on any watch lists before the bombing attempt, but Ms. Harman said information gleaned during a screening of Mr. Shahzad when he returned to the United States in February after a visit to Pakistan "yielded critical contact information that was entered into the system and used in his arrest yesterday."

Mr. Shahzad was on a jet at the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport and preparing to leave for the Middle East when the flight was stopped and he was removed.

Authorities shed little light on what might have motivated Mr. Shahzad.

He reportedly came from a background of privilege and wealth - the son of a retired air vice marshal - and lived in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in Karachi before moving to the United States, sources said.

Mr. Shahzad is married and has two children.

Mr. Shahzad graduated from the University of Bridgeport (Conn.) with a bachelor's degree in computer applications and information systems in 2001 and returned to earn a master's in business administration in 2005, the school said.

Mr. Shahzad became the focus of the investigation after investigators found the identification number of the SUV and then trace him through e-mail conversations he had with the seller, who had advertised it online last month.

When he left the vehicle in Times Square, it held fireworks, plastic cans of gasoline, wires, alarm clocks, and propane tanks.

"We believe that this suspected terrorist fashioned a bomb from rudimentary ingredients, placed it in a rusty SUV, and drove it into Times Square, with the intent to kill as many innocent tourists and theatergoers as possible," Attorney General Holder said.



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