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U.S. Says Times Square Bomber 'Trained In Pakistan'


Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American suspected of trying to explode a car bomb in New York City's Times Square

WASHINGTON (RFE/RL) -- U.S. law enforcement authorities have said a man who tried and failed to explode a car bomb in New York City's Times Square attended a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

Federal prosecutors have charged Faisal Shahzad on five criminal counts, including committing an act of terrorism and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

According to a complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, Shahzad admitted under questioning that he had received bomb-making training in his home country before attempting last Saturday night to explode a car packed with explosives in one of New York City's busiest neighborhoods.

U.S. prosecutors said Shahzad "admitted that he had attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square. He also admitted that he had recently received bomb-making training in Waziristan, Pakistan."

Waziristan is in the country's border area with Afghanistan and is a lawless area where the Taliban operates with near impunity.

Rusty Car Bomb

The Pakistani-born Shahzad, who became an American citizen in April 2009, was living about 70 miles north of New York City, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, when he allegedly drove a rusty Nissan Pathfinder packed with cans of gasoline, propane tanks, fireworks, and detonators into New York's Times Square on the evening of May 1.

A sharp-eyed sidewalk vendor alerted police after seeing smoke coming out of the back windows of the vehicle, which Shahzad had abandoned. Within minutes, a bomb disposal team had been called and thousands of people were being evacuated from the area.

Authorities identified Shazhad by tracing the previous owner of the vehicle, who sold it to Shazhad for cash three weeks ago. Late Monday night, he was arrested in dramatic fashion at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Customs and Border Protection agents stopped a plane he had already boarded from taking off for Dubai. The Air Emirates flight was brought back to the gate and Shahzad, along with two other passengers, were pulled off the flight.

Today authorities said Shahzad had been placed on the U.S. "No Fly" list just hours before he boarded the Dubai-bound flight. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declined to answer questions from reporters as to how Shahzad had been able to board the flight if he was on the banned passenger list.

Pakistan Arrests

On Monday the investigation was transferred to the government's Joint Terrorism Task Force -- a group of representatives from 38 intelligence, law enforcement, diplomatic, and defense agencies headed by the Justice Department.

Holder said the arrest and arraignment of Shahzad marked the beginning, not the end, of the investigation. "This investigation is ongoing, and we continue to pursue a number of leads as we gather useful intelligence related to the terrorist attack," he said.

Holder added, "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."

Pakistani officials confirmed today that they have made at least one arrest in Pakistan of a man alleged to have connections to Shahzad. Various media reports say several people, including relatives of Shahzad, were arrested.

According to "The New York Times," one man was picked up at a Karachi mosque known for its close association with the militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad.

Pakistan's Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, but unnamed U.S. officials told the Associated Press there is no evidence to support that claim.

Deputy FBI Director John Pistole said U.S. authorities are "working with our law enforcement and intelligence partners to uncover all possible ties this particular individual has or may have had to radical extremism or terrorist organizations, both at home and overseas, and we are pursuing every lead in that regard."

Pakistani Interior Minister Reham Malik told Reuters that his government would cooperate with U.S. officials in the investigation.

Obama Vows 'Justice'

Earlier today, U.S. President Barack Obama assured the American public that "justice will be done" in the case, which he called "another sobering reminder of the times in which we live."

"As Americans and as a nation, we will not be terrorized. We will not cower in fear. We will not be intimidated. We will be vigilant," Obama said. "We will work together, and we will protect and defend the country we love to ensure a safe and prosperous future for our people. That's what I intend to do as president, and that is what we will do as a nation."

Justice officials say they have so far ruled out any potential connection between Shahzad and another recently uncovered New York City terrorist plot.

Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan immigrant, admitted in February that he had been trained by Al-Qaeda in Pakistan's border region on Waziristan to launch a suicide bomb attack on the city's mass transit subway system.

He told the judge that his plan was "to conduct [a] martyrdom operation in Manhattan" and that he was willing to sacrifice himself "to bring attention to what the U.S. military was doing to civilians in Afghanistan."

U.S. officials say they have foiled 11 potential terror attacks in New York City since the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

written by Heather Maher with agency reports