A Pakistani-born U.S. citizen trained by the Taliban has been sentenced to life in prison for a failed May terror plot in which he tried to detonate a car rigged with bombs in New York City’s Times Square.
Faisal Shahzad, 31, smirked in defiance as U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum handed down the maximum sentence demanded by the prosecution in a New York courtroom today.
Shahzad had been charged with 10 counts of terrorism, weapons charges, and other crimes.
"When the judge read out the sentence, Faisal Shahzad reacted. He started shouting in Arabic, 'Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar' -- 'God is great, God is great,'" said New York-based journalist Sami Ibrahim, who spoke to RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal after sitting in on the sentencing.
"Then he told the court, 'Brace yourselves, because the war with the Muslims has just begun.' The security people tried to make him sit at that time because he stood up from his chair. But he kept on shouting and he said that ‘defeat is the destiny of the United States, it's imminent,'" said Ibrahim.
Shahzad also told the court, "We are only Muslims ... but if you call us terrorists, we are proud terrorists, and we will keep on terrorizing you."
On the evening of May 1, Shahzad drove a bomb-rigged vehicle into the New York City’s bustling Times Square and attempted to detonate it. Instead, the crude explosive only sputtered.
A nearby street vendor alerted police to smoke that was coming out of the abandoned car.
No one was injured.
After a two-day manhunt, Shahzad was arrested on May 4 by U.S. federal agents who pulled him off a Dubai-bound plane about to depart from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.
Following his arrest, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, "it is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country."
Prosecutors said Shahzad boasted that he expected to kill at least 40 people and planned to set off a second explosion if he evaded capture.
In a June court appearance, Shahzad said he targeted the city’s crowded Times Square so the bomb would cause the most possible casualties.
He also told prosecutors that he would plead guilty "100 times over" as a protest to the U.S. military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The son of a Pakistani air force officer, Shahzad came to the United States to study at the age of 18 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2009. He lived in a New York City suburb and worked as a financial analyst.
U.S. officials say he spent some 40 days with the Taliban in Waziristan, Pakistan, from December 2009 to January 2010, and received five days of bomb training.
In court today, the judge questioned Shahzad about the oath of allegiance he took when becoming a citizen of the United States. Shahzad replied that he "did not mean it."
He added, "We do not accept your democracy or your freedom because we already have Sharia law and freedom."
In handing down his sentence, the judge told Shahzad she hoped he would spend time in prison thinking "carefully about whether the Koran wants you to kill lots of people."
written with agency material and reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal