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.