AP: Times Square Suspect In Custody
A Connecticut man of Pakistani descent has been taken into custody in connection with the Times Square car bomb case — at JFK Airport.
A US citizen, Faisal Shahzad, 30, was apprehended by Customs and Border Patrol agents at the Queens international airport at 11:45 p.m. at Terminal 4, while trying to board a plane to Dubai, presumably to escape the manhunt that has been on since Saturday night, law enforcement sources said.
United States Attorney General Eric Holder took the unusual step of holding a press conference at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, saying that even though there has been an arrest, investigators from numerous federal and local law-enforcement agencies are still tracking down multiple leads.
“We continue to gather leads in this investigation and it is important that the American people remain vigilant,” said Holder.
“This investigation is ongoing, it is multifaceted and it is aggresive,” he added. “We will not rest until we have bought everyone responsible to justice.”
He noted that “this would have been a deadly attack” and “the intent was to kill Americans.”
Officials said Shahzad will appear in Manhattan federal court later Tuesday at a currently undetermined time to be presented on formal charges.
Long Island Rep. Peter King later released a statement saying, “Tonight’s arrest of Faisal Shahzad is a tremendous victory for the American people. I commend the NYPD and the FBI for their outstanding work. This is a vivid reminder of the deadly and continuing threat of Islamic terrorism to the United States and particularly to the people of New York.”
Late Monday, New York police and FBI agents had narrowed their focus on Shahzad, who recently returned from a trip to Pakistan and three weeks ago bought the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder used in the failed car bomb on Saturday night.
Investigators say Shahzad’s name was on an email that was sent to the seller of the SUV last month after they connected on Craigslist, but officials cannot definitively say whether he used his own email or whether someone else sent it from his account.
And even if Shahzad, who has a residence in Shelton Connecticut, did use his own account, and is the person who bought the car, investigators don’t know whether he is also the man who drove it into Times Square Saturday night.
Nonetheless, he is the strongest lead yet.
The FBI has checked his records and found repeated contacts overseas, but they cannot say tonight whether those are innocent or somehow related to the bombing attempt.
Officials said Shahzad had recently traveled to Pakistan.
A senior official says there’s a growing feeling that the bombing may have some overseas connection, but they cannot be certain. And if there is, they don’t know whether it’s inspirational or operational. They doubt it’s directed by an established group overseas, because the nature of the bomb was so badly assembled.
As for the idea that more than one person was involved, officials say that’s just a theory. There’s no reason, they say, to believe so.
It was a Vehicle Identification Number in the car’s engine that led investigators to the former owner, who was the last person on record to be officially associated with the SUV.
This morning, police spoke to that seller of the Nissan Pathfinder, but Chief NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said that person is not a suspect. Police have not yet identified who the driver was and Browne said they are still looking for suspects.
The New York Post reported that the seller was a female 19-year-old Connecticut college student whose mom said she was nervous about “the guy coming after her.”
The car bomb was a rough concoction of ordinary items – fireworks, fuel and fertilizer – that authorities suspect was meant to cause maximum mayhem in the heart of Times Square.
In the end, the device fizzled and the city and its residents counted themselves lucky once again: lucky that a vendor saw smoke creeping out of the car parked in one of the busiest streets in America; lucky that authorities responded quickly; and lucky that the would-be terrorists were clumsy enough to assemble a bomb that wasn’t capable of exploding.
But it was enough to fray nerves and set off a frenzied probe in what the NYPD called the most serious car bomb plot in the city since the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, in which six people were killed and more than 1,000 injured.
“Clearly it was the intent of whoever did this to cause mayhem, to create casualties,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
Meanwhile the hunt was also on Monday for the middle-aged man who was videotaped shedding his shirt near the sport utility vehicle in Times Square.
The man in the surveillance tape, who appears to be thin and in his 40s, is seen removing a dark shirt, stuffing it into some sort of bag and walking away down the sidewalk, carrying the bag and glancing at least twice over his shoulder.
The NYPD is asking for the public’s help in identifying the man, called a “person of interest.” Kelly says there’s a lot of work to do as investigators comb through the video of 82 surveillance cameras and ask local businesses for their tapes.
Police said they’ll be releasing more video from around Times Square, but early this afternoon an NYPD spokesman said that a preliminary review of tourist video from Pennsylvania appears to be of little investigative value and does not appear to match the time of the incident.
Materials gathered at the scene is being sent to FBI labs in Quantico, VA for forensic analysis, Kelly said.
The gasoline-and-propane bomb could have cut the SUV in half, produced “a significant fireball” and sprayed shrapnel and metal parts with enough force to kill pedestrians and knock out windows on one of America’s busiest streets, lined with Broadway theaters and restaurants and full of people out on a Saturday night, Kelly said.
The Pakistani Taliban appeared to claim responsibility for the car bomb in three videos that surfaced after the weekend scare, monitoring groups said. Kelly said police have no evidence to support the claims and noted that the same group had falsely taken credit for previous attacks on U.S. soil.