FBI arrests Pakistani-American sought in failed Times Square car bombing


Faisal Shahzad.

The FBI has detained a Pakistani-American suspect who was wanted for his involvement in the failed May 1 car bomb attack at Times Square in New York City.

Authorities arrested Faisal Shahzad on Long Island on Monday night after discovering he was behind the purchase of the SUV used in the Times Square attack. Shahzad and two other men, who have not been identified, were detained at JFK Airport while attempting to leave the US, the Associated Press reported. The men were on board a flight bound for Dubai that had just left the gate. The two othe rmen questioned by the FBI were released from custody, The New York Times reported.

Faisal has since claimed he acted alone, but Pakistani intelligence sources told Fox News that a suspect who was involved with the failed bombing was detained in Karachi.

Faisal is a naturalized American citizen who is originally from Pakistan. He recently returned from Pakistan after spending five months there. While the exact movements of Faisal are not yet known, US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal believe he spent time in al Qaeda or Taliban training camps in North Waziristan.

“North Waziristan is the heart of al Qaeda’s external operations network,” an intelligence official said. Previous al Qaeda plots, such as the attempted suicide attacks in New York’s subway system in September 2009 by Najibullah Zazi and his accomplices, were hatched in North Waziristan. Zazi, an Afghan citizen, traveled to North Waziristan for more than three-and-a-half months of training.

Faisal reportedly purchased the dark Nissan Pathfinder from an unidentified woman in Connecticut several weeks ago, using cash. The Pathfinder was found smoldering at Times Square on the evening of May 1. The Pathfinder was packed with three propane tanks, two five-gallon containers of gasoline, fireworks, and bags of fertilizer. The bomb appears to have been a crude fuel-air explosive device that was to be triggered by fireworks ignited by a timing device.

Information gathered from the upload of the videotape of Qari Hussain Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban master trainer of suicide bombers, may have pointed to Faisal, as the video was uploaded from Connecticut, according to ABC News. On the video, Qari Hussain lauded the bombing, which he characterized as successful, and said further attacks against the US would follow.

The YouTube website that hosted the video was created by a group calling itself the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel. The website was created one day before the failed attack, and the video was also uploaded one day before the attack, The Long War Journal first reported on May 2.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal on May 2 believed the YouTube site was created specifically to announce the Times Square attack. Officials also said Qari Hussain’s statement was pre-recorded well before the failed Times Square attack.

The Pakistani Taliban followed up Qari Hussain’s statement by releasing two tapes of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan who was reported killed in a US airstrike in North Waziristan in January 2010. The tapes were also uploaded onto YouTube by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel. The audio and video tapes, which were recorded in early and mid-April, are the first proof since Jan. 16 that Hakeemullah is alive. On the tapes, Hakeemullah also threatened to carry out attacks against the US and said the strikes would happen soon.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has close links to al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and the multitude of Pakistani jihadist groups. The Pakistani Taliban has focused its efforts on battling the Pakistani state as well as attacking Coalition forces in Afghanistan. In early January, Hakeemullah was seen on a videotape with the suicide bomber who carried out the attack on a CIA outpost in Khost, Afghanistan, on Dec. 30, 2009. Seven CIA operatives and bodyguards and a Jordanian intelligence officer were killed in the attack.

In the most recent tapes, both Hakeemullah and Qari Hussain said that the Taliban seeks to strike at the US for carrying out Predator strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, as well as for the US presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. Both Taliban leaders also said the failed Times Square bombing sought to avenge the deaths of al Qaeda in Iraq’s top two leaders, Abu Ayyub al Masri and Abu Omar al Baghdad; Baitullah Mehsud, who was Hakeemullah’s predecessor; and other senior terror leaders.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • BullsEyes says:

    These type of threats are serious and it could have been far worse.
    When is the government going to go after TTP with specops in Pak!!??

  • T Ruth says:

    Hats off to the FBI for tracking this mercenary savage down quickly. I hope the Pakistani people watching this understand what security is about, ie quality not quantity (just a bunch of half literate plodders running around). In fact this point applies across the over-populous South Asia.
    The whole episode leaves the Pak Taliban looking really stupid.
    They didn’t get the bomb right. They claimed credit with much aplomb for a failure. They’ve opened war with a whimper and given the US notice. And they made it a whole lot easier to get their man caught.
    They must be kicking themselves, right now. Alas, i strongly suspect that the chief Mehsud’s legs have been left useless.
    I look forward to this guy getting more than a taste of what a US jail is about. Tripping off to Dubai indeed!

  • Bill Baar says:

    Wonder if they’ve read him Miranda already?

  • BraddS says:

    Good catch! Whoever said “All Roads Lead to Islamabad” hit the nail on the effin head!

  • Bob says:

    Long time lurker. Thanks for the great coverage on this story. One understand the reluctance of law enforcement to speculate, but it is pretty amazing how quickly they shot down the notion that this might be a foreign plot. Oops.

  • KnightHawk says:

    I wonder i holder broke the previous record of 50minutes for reading him his Miranda rights?
    What sort of failed bomber decides to leave via plane after this, let alone from JFK, when a reasonable train ride or fairly short car trip away are two porous borders.
    Sounds like this was rushed job, if not poorly planned from the get go – thankfully.

  • Ward says:

    It’s time to bring some serious HEat. The enemy is thumbing his nose at us. His PYSOP is so effective WE have to alter our ROI. They brought the fight to us and we have to play by their rules? If this is a legal matter, he should bve tried with over 1000 counts of First Degree Murder. If this is an act of Terror and since we are at war- Gitmo he goes- get whatever intel you can from this guy and make him disappear.

  • Neo says:

    Getting trained in Waziristan sure doesn’t seem to be what it used to be. It doesn’t look like they invested much time in this guy. The whole affair still looks like a quick and dirty job.
    I wouldn’t write too much into its armature nature. That could be about the limitations of the bomber as much as anything. For all we know this could be some flunky who can’t follow a simple set of instructions if his life depended on it. The world is full of people too scatterbrained to follow the simplest set of instructions. I’m not insisting that is the case here, but a lot of these guys can’t shoot strait for personal reasons as much as anything else.

  • Fred says:

    Well despite all the wishes of the politically correct crowd we have another Jihadist.
    Based on the informed commentary posted routinely I am sure most of the forum is not surprised by this. Now to those who are critical of the overall stance towards Pakistan what is the takeaway from this latest plot? It seems to me that this is very un Al Qaeda like. Don’t get me wrong they or their allies are certainly behind it but it is certainly not the blow for which they have become infamous.
    Could it be that despite the SNAFU that is certainly Pakistan that our enemies have not profited from the chaos and confusion. The old saying in business is that where there is confusion there is profit. What is the intelligence or military analog of this?
    Could it be we are getting inside their decision making cycle? For certain the drone tactic is getting inside their heads.
    I think the drones are the equivalent of a flanking maneuver for which they have not, as of yet regrouped.
    Now can we furhter exploit it?

  • Charley says:

    This was another lucky break – getting him off the plane that had left the gate. Wondering if the new intel based screening is a fail point in our airport security infrastructure, likely to fail the next time. The 14 country pat downs, though not PC, was surely more fail safe.

  • BraddS says:

    NYTimes reporting the guy was actually on the plane, and the plane had to be recalled to the gate. I’m guessing he was the only one on the plane who knew *exactly* why they were “returning to the gate”…

  • Chris says:

    Why arrest this guy at JFK?
    Wouldn`t it be better to let him travel to dubai an follow him to some other guys? (of course a delta team close behind him)
    Also you wouldn`t have the legal complication that he is now in FBI custody and not in milatry/intelligence (guantanamo or foreign interrogation).

  • gfgwgc says:

    I read somewhere that Faisal was naturalized as a US citizen only last year. If I am not mistaken, there is a FBI background check conducted before citizenship is granted. I wonder if the United States will take a look at the effectiveness of such checks.
    When he was granted the right to citizenship, Faisal had to pledge allegiance to the United States at a swearing ceremony. His acts were, of course, a complete betrayal of that oath. (I recall when I was naturalized that I had to attest to not being a Nazi or a Communist which I found to be quite silly and quaint. Perhaps that language needs to be updated although it will probably do no good in such a case.)
    It will be interesting to follow his story. When was he radicalized? Who radicalized him? He spent five months in Pakistan recently and has a wife and two kids to support. Who paid for their living expenses? Were his benefactors here or in Pakistan?
    This story has depth and there is much we can understand on how such monsters are created.

  • Eric L says:

    @ Bill Baar
    “Wonder if they’ve read him Miranda already?”
    Don’t be foolish and let emotions get the best of you. He is an American citizen (sad but true). So you can safely assume he was read his Miranda rights already.

  • jayc says:

    Bravo Zulu to the FBI for their quick apprehension of this misfit. I never had the slightest trepidation that the Feds were going to get their man, and get him quick.
    I remember listening with deep pride and satisfaction to a recent conversation in a restaurant among two elderly gentlemen who were discussing the Somali pirate incident in which three bandits were holding an American ship captain hostage in a dinghy. The first man said, “The Navy’s not gonna let these punks get away with that” to which his buddy responded, “Damn right, those Seal boys are going to pop them!”

  • Bill Baar says:

    @Eric.. .Time to test the boundaries of the Military Commission Act then…
    …for what it’s worth, come the Fatwa of Surrender from OBL and the Taliban, I suspect the detainees at Gitmo will be released, and that will happen far sooner than the sentences meted out to Padilla, Richard Reid, and the others covnicted in civ criminal courts.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    The truly scary thing is that Mayor Bloomberg and most of the media reflexively directed attention to some presumed domestic terrorist (i.e. tea partiers) unhappy with this Administration’s policies. This reveals to me a dangerously myopic approach on the part of the elite that does not bode well in our GWOT mission. This is the 4th or 5th jihadist operation in American in the last year.

  • madashell59 says:

    Isn’t this a blatant act of treason? And just because the bomb did not go off does not mean there wasn’t true intent just like the underwear bomber had. “The Pathfinder was packed with three propane tanks, two five-gallon containers of gasoline, fireworks, and bags of fertilizer.”
    Not much different than the Oklahoma bomb if I am correct and that was one substantial explosion.
    But in this case he is a US Citizen and therefore could get the death penalty. Although I doubt that will happen. He will probably get a 5 year sentence and a fine and then send him back to Pakistan where he can join the enemy again. How sad.

  • Brent says:

    Bill, If this does turn out to be an attack carried out by the Pakistani Taliban do you think radical elements of the ISI had a hand in this? Perhaps a shift in strategy to win support. It would make sense, an attack by the Pakistani Taliban against U.S. targets would help the Pakistani Taliban build support and legitimacy in Pakistan and make them more favorable among Pakistani citizens (most of whom do not like the U.S.), all the while it would be extremely difficult for the U.S. to retaliate considering all the red tape we face concerning military operations in Pakistan.

  • T Ruth says:


  • Max says:

    You can see the murder in his eyes; he wants to kill.

  • sanjith menon says:

    david headly and now faizal shazad. America is like a rich man who is lonely who tends to marry a call girl and thinks he can help her change her ways. She`s taking advantage of him, and he is having someone to sleep with. Pakistans love for jehad is as old as the mountain there. but when indians say something americans feel we are biased.

  • BraddS says:

    Sanjith, some of us in the U.S. read the online editions of Dawn News and the Pakistan Daily Times because of their even handed and unbiased reporting – until it comes to a story about India! Please know that some of us out here know exactly what you are talking about…

  • Paul says:

    There will be pressure now on Pakistan to take on the Taliban in North Waziristan or let our Special forces in to deal with this terrorist haven!

  • gfgwgc says:

    This is how things will unfold in Pakistan:
    1. They will arrest a lot of people while this thing is still in the news
    2. Their leaders will make a lot of statements declaring themselves ardent allies of the United States in the war on terrorism and about how terrorism has also hurt Pakistan.
    3. A couple small frys will be made an example of. The more important players will then be released by their courts. The “ardent” allies will then feign respect for the judicial process, yada, yada, yada…
    4. Life will go on and the State of Dysfunction will continue as before.
    It is like clipping a leaf off a noxious weed while the root system continues to exist and even thrive.

  • John Abraham says:

    you forgot to include one more step in the process.
    4) In response to step 3 (small frys) we will reward Pak with good amount of $ which is consumed by military/political leaders.

  • SantaClaws says:

    What I find disturbing about this whole incident was that the man traveled to Pakistan and returned. He wasn’t being watched because he managed to get this far. We got lucky this time. We need to be lucky every time. They only need to get lucky once.

  • yash says:

    all the top terrorist leaders have been apprehended from Pakistan and not Afghanistan. Still America flaunts Pak as a bulwark against terrorism and gives it money. American taxpayers money is being used to fund terrorism… when will Americans start questioning this stupid policy of their Government

  • Solomon2 says:

    “Still America flaunts Pak as a bulwark against terrorism and gives it money”
    Note that the Pakistani police have responded very quickly to this attack. I can’t see that anybody has any complaints about them.

  • Dr. O. P. Sudrania says:

    Until the US revises its Af/Pak to only “Pak”, the ‘Af’
    will remain in suspense. Because the gas plant for Af
    “flame” lies in Pak and until the source is eliminated, the “flame” will keep burning. However the high wind one blows. Useless. The Pakistan is the root cause of all the evils in the whole world.
    Dr. O. P. Sudrania

  • Paul says:

    I guess AQ & the Taliban just can’t get good help these days. Sounds like this guy was smoking hashish in between bomb classes. Dude yiou need more than an M80 and Scotts Turf builder to blow up an SUV. Idiot!

  • Bing says:

    “all the top terrorist leaders have been apprehended from Pakistan and not Afghanistan.”
    That they find sanctuary in p-stan is not in question., but your own statement points to some level of cooperation from the paks.
    Is the current strategy sustainable? I don’t think so. Is there a better option? I’m all ears.


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