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Times Square bomb plotter sentenced to life without parole

NEW YORK — During his sentencing Tuesday to life in prison, Faisal Shahzad — a Pakistani immigrant who gave up a secure suburban life in America to become a terrorist for Islam — was unapologetic about his botched attempt to kill dozens of people in Times Square last spring.

"Brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun," the 31-year-old told a federal judge. "Consider me the first droplet of the blood that will follow."

Last May, on a bustling corner of Broadway in the theater district, Shahzad parked an SUV loaded with three homemade bombs and tried to set them off. Authorities tracked Shahzad through the vehicle and the keys he left dangling from the ignition, and two days later he was arrested at JFK International Airport aboard a plane that was about to take off for Dubai.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum did not bother to review parole possibilities because she said there were none.

Shahzad — brought into the courtroom in handcuffs, and wearing a long beard and white skullcap — had instructed his attorney not to speak, and Cedarbaum told prosecutors she didn't need to hear from them either because of Shahzad's guilty plea.

That left the two free to spar over his reasoning for giving up his comfortable life in America to train in Pakistan and carry out an attack.

"You appear to be someone who was capable of education, and I do hope you will spend some of the time in prison thinking carefully about whether the Koran wants you to kill lots of people," Cedarbaum said.

Shahzad responded that the "Koran gives us the right to defend. And that's all I'm doing."

In his address to the court, he said Osama bin Laden "will be known as no less than Saladin of the 21st century crusade" — a reference to the Muslim hero of the Crusades. He also said: "If I'm given 1,000 lives, I will sacrifice them all."

Shahzad smirked when the judge imposed the sentence. Asked if he had any final words, he said, "I'm happy with the deal that God has given me."

The head of the FBI's New York office, Janice K. Fedarcyk, cited evidence that Shahzad hoped to strike more than once.

"Shahzad built a mobile weapon of mass destruction and hoped and intended that it would kill large numbers of innocent people and planned to do it again two weeks later," Fedarcyk said. "The sentence imposed today means Shahzad will never pose that threat again."

The son of a retired Pakistani air force marshal, Shahzad grew up mostly in a secular, upper-middle class neighborhood in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city. He came to the United States in 1998 as an undergraduate student, and over the years attained many of the trappings of what many here consider a successful life — two university degrees, a wife and two small children, a house in the suburbs and a job as a junior financial analyst.

But the U.S. military presence in Muslim countries and perceived insults by Westerners toward Islam apparently had begun plaguing Shahzad, according to reports of what he told investigators. He returned last winter to his native Pakistan, first to spend time with family in Peshawar and later to attend terror camp in the volatile Waziristan region, where he learned to make bombs.

After he returned to America, he left his job, let a house he owned in Shelton, Conn., go into foreclosure and sent his family to live in Pakistan with his parents. Living in a rundown neighborhood in Bridgeport, Conn., he began monitoring via the Internet a crowded corner in Times Square where he planned to blow up his vehicle. He told police that he had hoped to kill at least 40 people on the first try and that if he hadn't been caught he would have kept trying to blast through crowded areas in New York City until he was arrested or killed.

He said the Pakistan Taliban provided him with more than $15,000 and five days of explosives training late last year and early this year, months after he became a U.S. citizen.

On May 1, he lit the fuse of his crude bomb packed in a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder, then walked away, pausing to listen for the explosion that never came, court papers said. A street vendor spotted smoke coming from the SUV and alerted police, who quickly cleared the area.

Information from the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times was used in this report.

Germany mum

on terror suspects

BERLIN — Pakistani officials said Tuesday that eight German militants were killed in a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan's mountain border area, but German officials remained tight-lipped over the incident.

Washington believes a cell of Germans and Britons are at the heart of a terror plot against European cities — a plan they link to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Germany's Foreign Ministry said it was investigating the reports but that it was unable to comment further.

Pakistani intelligence officials initially said that the U.S. missile strike in Pakistan had killed five German militants taking shelter in a house in the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan, a known hub for foreign militants with links to al-Qaida. They later increased the number to eight, but gave no reason for the discrepancy.

The terror cell said to be behind the Europe plot — eight Germans and a Briton — were believed to have been in hiding in the region. A second Briton was killed in a U.S. strike last month.

The U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan came on the heels of a U.S. warning for Americans traveling in Europe to be on alert for possible terror attacks.

12 arrested in France

PARIS — Police in southern France arrested 12 people in sweeps against suspected Islamic militant networks on Tuesday, including three men linked to a network recruiting fighters for Afghanistan.

The roundups were part of two entirely different counterterrorism cases under investigation by French judges, and fell on the same day only by coincidence, one police official in Paris said.

Firearms were seized in one of the sweeps, another official said.

Times Square bomb plotter sentenced to life without parole 10/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 9:16pm]
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