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Times Square Bomb Suspect Faces Terror Charges

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(May 4) - The 30-year-old Pakistani-American held in connection with Saturday's failed attack on Times Square has admitted receiving terrorist training in western Pakistan, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday.

In the five-count complaint filed in a Manhattan federal court, Faisal Shahzad is said to have also admitted to attempting to set off the improvised bomb inside his newly acquired Nissan Pathfinder, which he had parked in Times Square.

A Pakistani-born and naturalized U.S. citizen who lived in Connecticut, Shahzad was pulled off a midnight flight to Dubai on Monday night. He now faces charges stemming from the botched car bombing, authorities said today.

Shahzad's arrest came just 53 hours after the attempted bombing, police said.

"We anticipate charging him with an act of terrorism transcending national borders, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, using a destructive device during the commission of another crime, as well as assorted explosives charges," Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters in Washington this afternoon.

"Based on what we know so far, it is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country," Holder said. "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."

Shahzad was expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan today, where he'll be charged, authorities said earlier.

"The investigation is ongoing, as are our attempts to gather useful intelligence, and we continue to pursue a number of leads," Holder told reporters at a middle-of-the-night news conference.

Authorities in Pakistan have arrested five people in connection with the case, Al-Jazeera reported, but U.S. officials refused to comment other than to say that an investigation into links between Shahzad and known terrorist groups is under way.

President Barack Obama said today the suspect is being questioned as investigators try to determine what, if any, connection he had to terrorist groups and to gather intelligence to prevent future attacks.
"Justice will be done, and we will continue to do everything in our power to protect the American people," Obama said.

"New Yorkers have reminded us once again how to live with their heads held high," he said. "We will not be terrorized. We will not cower in fear and we will not be intimidated."

Shahzad is believed to have recently returned from a five-month trip to Pakistan. Authorities say he paid cash for the Nissan Pathfinder that was found rigged with propane tanks, fertilizer and gasoline Saturday evening in Times Square. Witnesses alerted police to the smoking SUV, and the bomb was defused. New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the device could have produced "a significant fireball" had it detonated properly.

Shahzad was arrested moments after the plane left the departure gate at New York's JFK airport and was taxiing toward the runway.

"They pulled the flight back to the gate," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters this afternoon.

Two other people were taken off the Emirates airline flight, but a spokeswoman for the airline said today that they were cleared to board the flight to Dubai.

After Shahzad was apprehended, the flight was delayed for seven hours as all passengers were taken off the plane. The passengers, plane and luggage were all rescreened, the airline said.

Shahzad paid for his ticket in cash and made his reservation on the way to the airport, leading the airline to flag the reservation and call authorities, CBS News reported. He had driven to the airport in a white Isuzu Trooper found at an airport parking lot with a gun inside, an unidentified law enforcement official told The New York Times.

Law enforcement officials told several news outlets that Shahzad claims to have acted alone but stressed that the investigation is ongoing.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg thanked authorities for working around the clock to make the arrest.

"This was an act that was designed to kill innocent civilians and strike fear into the hearts of Americans," he said. "I'm happy to say it failed on both counts."

He added, "We will not tolerate any bias or backlash against Pakistani or Muslim New Yorkers."

The sale of the Pathfinder a few weeks ago helped officials focus on Shahzad, authorities said. Although its vehicle identification number had been removed from the dashboard, it was stamped on the engine, The Associated Press reported.

"The big break in this case came when a detective climbed underneath the pathfinder and lifted the vehicle identification number from the bottom of its engine block," Raymond Kelly, New York's Chief of Police said at Tuesday's news conference."

Officials used the number to find the owner of record, who told them it had been sold to a stranger without paperwork.

The Pathfinder's previous owner had advertised it for sale on the Internet. An ad that appears to be for the vehicle said it had 141,000 miles and was in good condition. Shahzad reportedly paid $1,300 in cash for the vehicle. Investigators managed to trace an e-mail account that Shahzad used to communicate with the vehicle's seller to identify the suspect.

Referencing a popular television show, Kelly praised the efficiency of the effort to identify and locate Shahzad. "Jack Bauer may have caught him in '24,' But in the real world, 53's not bad."

The Pathfinder was reportedly sold by 19-year-old college student Peggy Colas of Bridgeport. She was interviewed by authorities after they traced the vehicle's ID number to her, according to reports. Her family told the New York Post that the "for sale" sign that had been in the Pathfinder was taken by police so they could check for fingerprints.

She refused to comment, telling the Post: "How do you know I sold the car?"

The investigation also focused on two Connecticut cities where Shahzad lived, Shelton and Bridgeport.

In Bridgeport, authorities searched a home overnight and into this morning, removing plastic bags holding evidence, documents and computers, according to reports.

Citing a federal law enforcement source, CBS News said components from the bomb were found in Shahzad's Connecticut residence.

"Our first mission was to ensure the safety of the public and our law enforcement team. That is complete, the public is safe," FBI Special Agent Kim Mertz said at a brief news conference this morning, The Hartford Courant reported.

One nearby resident, Ted Fiorito, told the newspaper that he saw the authorities.

"I saw about 10 vehicles - FBI, Homeland Security - block off the streets," Fiorito said. "It was pretty dark, and I couldn't see much. But I saw a few officers come out with plastic bags."

A former neighbor of Shahzad's in Shelton said Shahzad and his wife, Huma Mian, lived in the two-story colonial house for three years, spoke little English and mostly kept to themselves. Neighbor Brenda Thurman told The New York Times that Shahzad moved out in May 2009 and his wife about a month later. They have a young son and daughter, she said.

Shahzad was nicely dressed early each morning and told Thurman he worked on Wall Street, she said. "I think he caught the train to New York," she told the Times.

Thurman told ABC's "Good Morning America" by phone that he liked to wear all black and "said he didn't like the sunlight."

The arrest came after a sweeping two-day investigation in which officials said they uncovered a web of international and domestic clues that point to a plot involving more than one person.

Pakistani authorities pledged to help the U.S. bring Shahzad to justice.

"We will cooperate with the United States in identifying this individual and bringing him to justice," Interior Minister Rehman Malik said, according to Reuters.

In Pakistan, some people were confused and frightened over the connection to Pakistan.

"It seems like every time there's a terrorist incident in the West, a Pakistani is involved," said Akram Khan, a hotel manager in Islamabad. "What my friends and I are hoping is that this Faisal guy, whoever he is, really did act alone."

One unanswered question is what Shahzad was doing in Pakistan in 2009. And, conflicting reports have surfaced about when he was in the country. One Pakistani media outlet reported that Shahzad visited Karachi, where he reportedly has family ties, on July 9, 2009, returning to the U.S. on Aug. 5. U.S. authorities told The Washington Post he arrived back in the country in February.

Authorities have been hesitant to comment on Shahzad's foreign links, though an unidentified U.S. official told the Post that investigators are scouring international phone records showing calls "between some of the people who might be associated with this and folks overseas." They've also uncovered evidence - a piece of paper, fingerprints or possibly both - that indicates international ties, another official was quoted as saying.

"We continue to gather leads in this investigation, and it's important that the American people remain vigilant," Holder said. "As we move forward, we will focus on not just holding those responsible for it accountable but also on obtaining any intelligence about terrorist organizations overseas."

Police said that had the bomb detonated, it could have killed or wounded scores of people in a bustling tourist area home to dozens of restaurants and Broadway theaters. It's the most serious bombing attempt in the U.S. since the Christmas Day attempted attack aboard a commercial airliner bound for Detroit. In that case, the suspect was a young Nigerian man with ties to al-Qaida. He purchased his plane ticket with cash.