Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, suspect in foiled Times Square bomb plot, arrested at JFK
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder responds to reporters' questions following the arrest of Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad late Monday night.
Authorities late Monday night arrested a suspect in the botched plot to bomb Times Square.
Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American who recently returned from a trip to his home country, was nabbed at Kennedy Airport.
"Mr. Shahzad, an American citizen, was taken into custody at JFK Airport in New York as he attempted to board a flight to Dubai," Attorney General Eric Holder said in an early-morning news conference.
"This investigation is ongoing, as are our attempts to gather useful intelligence, and we continue to pursue a number of leads," the Queens-born Holder said.
"But it's clear that the intent behind this terrorist act was to kill Americans," he told reporters.
The Customs and Border Protection agents at Terminal 4 had Shahzad's name and photo, a source told the Daily News.
"He was looking to get out of the country," a source told The News.
Shahzad, 30, of Connecticut, bought his mobile weapon of mass destruction on craigslist - and paid a 19-year-old college student $1,300 cash for it.
He is believed to have links to international terrorists and was already under surveillance for two days when the feds moved in.
They had hoped he would lead them to other possible suspects but scooped him up at JFK when he looked ready to run.
Shahzad bought the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that he left in Times Square last Saturday night two weeks ago in a deal without paperwork, sources said.The National Security Agency had also been tracking his cell phone calls, some of which had been made to overseas numbers.
The SUV was packed with enough fuel, fertilizer and explosives to ignite a massive fireball - and kill scores of people.
In Times Square, New Yorkers and tourists alike were thrilled to hear today that Shahzad was now in the hands of the law.
"They did a great job getting this guy so fast," said Diana Suliz, 22, a bartender from the Bronx. "I feel safer now that they've got him."
But she's still worried about the future.
"I'm scared now that this might be part of a bigger terrorism threat. I have a daughter, she's only 9 months old," she said. "I don't want her to have to grow up worrying about terrorists in her own city."
Holder assured New York - and the nation - that law enforcement officials are on the case.
"This investigation is ongoing, it is multifaceted, and it is aggressive," he said. "As we move forward, we will focus on not just holding those responsible for it accountable."
Sources told The News early Tuesday that the feds are tracking three associates who may have helped the suspect.
Shahzad tried to cover his tracks when he drove the Pathfinder to Times Square.
The vehicle identification number was defaced, but detectives found it stamped on the engine block and axle to get a lead on the current owner.
NYPD and FBI detectives identified Shahzad after tracking down the previous owner, Peggy Colas of Bridgeport, Conn., sources said. She told investigators she had turned over the keys to the mystery man at a Connecticut mall, sources said.
"Of course I'm scared. If I say something and he comes here, then what?" she said from her home earlier Monday night, before Shahzad was arrested. Authorities whisked her away to shield her from the encamped media.
Colas told cops the buyer paid with $100 bills, and he used a bogus name - though his cell phone number worked.When she found out who bought the car, Colas freaked out, posting on her Facebook page: "OMG! I had a crazy day. ... It's official. I have bad luck. ... I hope they find that bastard."
Her family couldn't believe her luck either.
"He came off like a nice guy, I guess," one of Colas' brothers said. "He told my sister, 'I'm going to New York.' He said he needed a car in the city."
As Shahzad was tracked, investigators have also started looking at a Connecticut-based Web site purporting to represent a faction of the Taliban in Pakistan, sources said. The site went up last week, and within 24 hours of the failed bombing was laying claim to an attack on American soil, law enforcement sources said.
The arrest appears to eliminate as a suspect the still-unidentified white man caught by security cameras stripping off a dark shirt to reveal a red one after the SUV was abandoned in Times Square.
The arrest came after a day of fast-moving developments:
- The White House uttered the T-word for the first time in connection with the failed plot that sent a scare through the city.
"I would say that was intended to terrorize, and I would say that whomever did that would be categorized as a terrorist," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
- Motorized traffic into Manhattan slowed to a crawl as officers checked trucks entering the East River tunnels - and gave New Yorkers a jarring flashback to the tense days after the 9/11 attacks.
- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for federal funding for a midtown surveillance program that would use security cameras and license plate scanners to track every vehicle moving between 34th and 59th Sts.
Inside the Pathfinder, cops found dozens of M-88 firecrackers, three tanks of BBQ-style propane, two red plastic jugs of gasoline and a metal locker densely packed with eight supermarket bags of fertilizer.
The whole shebang was wired to two cheap, yellow, old-fashioned travel alarm clocks set to work in tandem - one to blow up the propane tanks and the other to explode the contents of the locker.
The fertilizer was not explosive-grade and would not have produced the kind of devastation associated with ammonium nitrate bombs - like the one in Oklahoma City in 1995.
But the propane tanks pack an explosive punch that could have shattered windows and done all kinds of damage in Times Square, officials said.
The Pathfinder was parked by "The Lion King" marquee on W.45th St., right next to the 1515Broadway headquarters of Viacom, which owns Comedy Central.
The bombing plot was foiled by two sharp-eyed street vendors who spotted smoke seeping from the SUV just after 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and alerted mounted Officer Wayne Rhatigan. He then sounded the alarm.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 04 May 2010 )