New York (CHICAGOPRESSRELEASE.COM) — A suspect in the failed Times Square car bombing told law enforcement officials that he recently received bomb-making training in Pakistan, court documents filed Tuesday show.
Additionally, charges against Faisal Shahzad allege that he received a series of phone calls from Pakistan in the days leading up to the incident, including five calls on the same day he bought the Nissan Pathfinder used in the attempted attack Saturday night in the bustling area of New York.
The documents, filed in U.S. District Court, detail five counts against Shahzad: attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, use of a destructive device in connection with criminal violence, transporting and receiving explosives, and damaging and destroying property by means of fire.
If convicted, Shahzad could get life in prison.
Shahzad, 30, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan who was living in Connecticut, was arrested at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport late Monday after boarding a flight bound for Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
He was due in federal court later Tuesday, but that appearance was delayed until at least Thursday as he continued to be questioned by authorities.
“This incident is another sobering reminder of the times in which we live,” President Obama said Tuesday. “Around the world and here at home, there are those who would attack our citizens and who would slaughter innocent men, women and children in pursuit of their murderous agenda. They will stop at nothing to kill and disrupt our way of life.”
The court documents allege that Shahzad admitted to investigators to driving the Pathfinder into Times Square and attempting to detonate the bomb. The documents also reveal a clearer picture of how he was linked to the plot.
After receiving explosives training at a camp in Pakistan’s Waziristan region, Shahzad returned to the United States via a one-way plane ticket February 3, the court documents say, citing Customs and Border Protection records.
He told immigration officials upon his return that he had been visiting his parents in Pakistan for five months, according to the documents. He also told officials that his wife remained in Pakistan.
Authorities focused on Shahzad when they traced evidence to him from the sale of the Nissan Pathfinder used in the failed attack, information considered the linchpin of the case.
The SUV’s vehicle identification number had been removed from the dashboard. Police retrieved the VIN from the bottom of its engine block.
This, said a federal law enforcement official, led investigators to the registered owner of the vehicle and then to Shahzad, who purchased the SUV on April 24 for $1,300 cash via an ad on the internet, the court documents show. He was identified in a photo lineup by the seller of the vehicle.
In addition to the bomb-making materials found in the Pathfinder — which included gasoline, propane tanks, fireworks and non-explosive fertilizer — investigators found a set of keys, one of which opened Shahzad’s Connecticut home. Another belonged to an Isuzu vehicle. Shahzad is believed to have driven an Isuzu to the airport Monday.
Phone records cited in the court documents show a series of calls made from Pakistan to a pre-paid cell phone used by Shahzad. The phone was activated April 16 and inactivated around April 28, last Wednesday. The attempted attack was carried out Saturday.
Phone records further indicate that Shahzad called a fireworks store in Pennsylvania that carries M-88 firecrackers, the same kind found in the Pathfinder.
Additionally, FBI agents searching Shahzad’s Connecticut residence recovered fireworks and fertilizer from his garage, the documents say.
As the investigation drew law enforcement officials closer to finding Shahzad, he was placed on a federal no-fly list Monday, according to FBI Deputy Director John Pistole. The restriction helped Customs and Border Protection agents arrest him moments before Emirates Flight 202 to Dubai pushed back from the gate.
Two other passengers were removed from the plane “out of an abundance of caution” after it left the gate, a federal law enforcement source said. Those passengers were later cleared and released.
In addition, Emirates airline said Shahzad bought his ticket with cash at the airport counter, and the staff, considering that unusual, immediately informed airport security officials.
“It is clear that this was a terrorist plot,” Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday. It could have caused “death and destruction in the heart of New York City.”
Hours after authorities arrested Shahzad, security forces in Pakistan seized two or three people in a raid in connection with the failed bombing, a Pakistani intelligence source said.
The Pakistan raid took place in a house in the Nazimabad district in Karachi, where Shahzad was believed to have stayed during his last visit to the country.
Shahzad has a Karachi identification card, a sign of Pakistani residency, and his family is from volatile northwestern Pakistan, where government forces have been fighting Taliban militants who have strongholds in the area, according to Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
Shahzad’s father is a retired senior officer in the Pakistani Air Force, Shahzad’s cousin, Kafayat Ali, said Tuesday.
The father, Bahar Ul Haq, a former air vice marshal, lives in the Peshawar suburb of Hayatabad in what is now Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province, formerly the North West Frontier Province.
“This is certain, that these people, they never indulged in any criminal activities,” Ali said. “Not a family member. Not the village from which both of these people belongs, none of the village members involved in any criminal activities or any jihad activities.”
Shahzad also has a brother named Amir who lives in Canada, a police source said.
Shahzad became a U.S. citizen on April 17, 2009, which aided investigators in the case, the federal law enforcement source said. Because of his recent change in residency status, authorities had his picture and were able to show it to the seller of the vehicle.
A woman who said she lived next door to Shahzad in Shelton, Connecticut, until his family moved in July, said Tuesday that the man she knew was quiet and claimed to work on Wall Street in New York.
A spokesman for Affinion Media Group said Tuesday that Shahzad worked as a junior financial analyst for the marketing firm at the company’s Norwalk, Connecticut, office from mid-2006 to June. The spokesman said Shahzad left the firm voluntarily.
CHICAGOPRESSRELEASE.COM’s Craig Bell, Deborah Feyerick, Samson Desta, Tim Lister, Jeanne Meserve, Reza Sayah, Caroline Faraj, David Fitzpatrick, Drew Griffin and Carol Cratty contributed to this report.