The US has linked the main suspect in the failed Times Square car bomb attack to a training camp in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal region of Waziristan.
Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen who is originally from Pakistan, admitted during an interrogation by the FBI that he had trained in a camp in Waziristan. Shahzad was detained at JFK airport late last night while attempting to leave the country, according to the criminal complaint filed by the US attorneys in Manhattan. Shahzad’s flight, which was bound for Dubai, was ordered to return to the gate and Shahzad was taken into custody.
“After his arrest, Shahzad stated that he had recently received bomb-making training in Waziristan, Pakistan,” the criminal complaint stated. Shahzad also “admitted that he had brought the Pathfinder to Times Square – and attempted to detonate it.”
The FBI did not distinguish whether Faisal had trained in North or South Waziristan, but US intelligence contacted by The Long War Journal last night said they believed Faisal trained in a camp in North Waziristan. A Pakistani intelligence official told the Express Tribune that Shahzad may have trained in a terror camp in Kohat, a district in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Al Qaeda and the Taliban were known to have operated 157 training camps in the province and the tribal areas as of the summer of 2008.
Further links between Shahzad and Pakistan have emerged over the past 24 hours.
Pakistani authorities have reportedly detained nearly a dozen people associated with Shahzad, most of whom are friends or family members. Among those detained are a friend named Mohammed Rehan, according to The Telegraph, and another named Tauseef, according to the Associated Press. Rehan is said to have been detained at a Karachi mosque that is associated with the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Shahzad returned to the US on Feb. 3 after spending five months in Pakistan. At the time, he claimed he had been visiting his parents and left his wife, Huma Mian, in Pakistan, according to the criminal complaint filed against him. Shahzad and his wife are reported to have two children.
Shahzad’s family is well-connected among Pakistan’s elite. He is reportedly a son of retired Air Vice Marshall Baharul Haq, a former top officer in the Pakistani Air Force.
The first hint of a link between the failed attack in Times Square and Pakistan emerged just hours after the bomb was discovered. Within 24 hours of the failed attack, two top leaders of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan who are currently thought to be sheltering in North Waziristan released tapes claiming credit for the attack and threatening more attacks in the US. But senior US officials initially dismissed the reports and speculated that the attack was carried out by a “lone wolf.”
In the early morning of May 2, a person identifying himself as a member of a group calling itself the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel sent The Long War Journal the location of an audiotape made by Qari Hussain Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban master trainer of suicide bombers. On the tape, which was uploaded to a YouTube site created by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel on April 30, just one day before the attack, Qari Hussain took credit for the failed bombing. Qari Hussain’s audiotape was uploaded on April 30, the same day the Taliban news channel was created. On May 2, YouTube quickly removed the audiotape and shut down the site.
Sixteen hours after receiving the initial Taliban contact, The Long War Journal was contacted by a person using a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan email address who pointed to the location of a new YouTube website with both an audio and a video tape of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. In these tapes, Hakeemullah officially broke his months-long silence, denied that he had been killed in a US strike in Pakistan on Jan. 14, and threatened more attacks in the US.
Wes Bruer contributed to this report.