During a plea hearing in New York on Monday, Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square on May 1, pled guilty to all of the charges levied against him and discussed his ties to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (the TTP, or Pakistani Taliban). In a back and forth with District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum, Shahzad said he had made a “pact” with the TTP.
Shahzad also admitted that he was trained in a Taliban camp in Waziristan beginning in late 2009, and that he received money from the organization twice after returning to the US in early 2010.
Shahzad’s testimony provides additional confirmation that the TTP was heavily involved in the plot. The first indications of the TTP’s involvement were seen the morning after Shahzad’s attempt. The Long War Journal received an email from a person claiming to be a TTP representative on the morning of May 2. The email was titled “Qari Hussain Mehsud from Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan accepts the responsibility of recent Attack on Times Square Newyork [sic] USA” and contained a link to a videotape posted on You Tube.
In the video, Qari Hussain, who is one of the Taliban’s top bomb makers and suicide bomb trainers, said the Times Square attack was intended to avenge the deaths of terrorist leaders, punish the US for conducting Predator airstrikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, and avenge the jailing of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist with links to al Qaeda.
Hussain said in the video that he takes “fully responsibility for the recent attack in the USA.”
On the evening of May 2, the Taliban spokesman sent The Long War Journal another email titled “Hakeemullah Mehsud is Alive and Healthy and Delivering news about Attacks on USA.” The email pointed to an audio tape and a video tape of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the TTP’s top commander. In the tapes, Mehsud denied reports of his demise and promised further attacks on America.
Importantly, the tapes sent via email to The Long War Journal were posted online prior to Shahzad’s attack. This confirmed the TTP’s foreknowledge of Shahzad’s plot.
This past Monday, Shahzad explained his training in a TTP camp in Waziristan. “With them [the TTP], I did the training to wage an attack inside United States of America.”
District Judge Cedarbaum asked, “Any kind of attack?” Shahzad responded: “Well, it would have been any kind of attack, but I was given a [sic] bomb training, and that’s what I learned there.”
“How to make a bomb or how to detonate a bomb? What were you taught?” Judge Cedarbaum inquired.
In response, Shahzad said: “The whole thing; how to make a bomb, how to detonate a bomb, how to put a fuse, how many different types of bombs you can make.” According to Shahzad, the bomb was built in three sections containing fertilizer, gas cylinders, and petrol. It appears that Shahzad was shown a design for the bomb written in Urdu and he made an English copy of the manual.
Shahzad expected the bomb to explode within five minutes, but after it failed to do so he walked to Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan and boarded a train bound for Connecticut. Shahzad told Judge Cedarbaum that he does not know why his bomb failed to explode. The answer, perhaps, lies in the short duration of his training. Although Shahzad said he was at the TTP camp for 40 days from December 2009 to January 2010, he also said that his training lasted only “five days.”
While in Pakistan, Shahzad said he asked for and received about $4,000 in cash from the Taliban. (The transcript of Shahzad’s testimony also indicates a figure of $4,900.) But that was not the end of the Taliban’s funding. Shahzad explained that after he returned to the US in February 2010:
“I also required some more cash and I requested that from the Taliban, and they sent it to me, twice, once in March and the other time in end of April. So I got the cash, I worked on it, I made the bomb in a car, and I drove it to Times Square, New York, on May 1st….”
Shahzad denied receiving any assistance in constructing the bomb once he returned to the US. Furthermore, Shahzad denied any knowledge of other Taliban members or associates on American soil.
“I don’t know if they have any contacts here or if there was anybody else who was American and who was going to do what I wanted to do. I couldn’t see anybody else helping me with that,” Shahzad said.
But Shahzad’s own testimony regarding the Taliban’s funding may contradict this claim. Shahzad received cash from the Taliban twice while he was assembling his bomb in Connecticut. US authorities think that couriers delivered the cash to Shahzad, which indicates that the TTP’s tentacles extend into the US .
As the Associated Press reported earlier this week: “Three men in Massachusetts and Maine suspected of supplying money to Shahzad have been detained on immigration charges; one was recently transferred to New York.” The AP also reported that federal authorities believe these men were part of an “underground money transfer network known as hawala,” but the same authorities doubt the men knew that the money was to be used for Shahzad’s bomb making.
Shahzad’s testimony raises questions nonetheless about how he knew enough to contact these individuals to receive the TTP’s transfers, and also how much of a relationship there was between these intermediaries and the TTP.
Moreover, Shahzad’s testimony confirms that he was trained by the TTP in northern Pakistan and that he received funding from the terrorist group. His testimony provides additional confirmation that the TTP’s initial claims of responsibility were valid.
[Note: The Long War Journal received a copy of the transcript of Shahzad’s plea hearing from The Legal Project at Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum.]