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Terror suspect admits Times Square bomb plot, officials say

NEW YORK — Federal authorities on Tuesday charged a Pakistani-American man with terrorism-related crimes in the failed plot last weekend to detonate a car bomb in Times Square. The man spoke freely to investigators, officials said, admitting his role in the attempted attack and saying he had received explosives training in Waziristan, a lawless border region of Pakistan.

The arrest of the man, Faisal Shahzad, 30, as he tried to flee the country in a Dubai-bound jet late Monday was followed within hours by reports of arrests in Pakistan of seven or eight people, and came as officials in the United States and Pakistan sought to learn the origins and scope of the plot.

U.S. intelligence officials told the New York Times that while Shahzad's ties to international terrorist groups remained murky, evidence was mounting that the Pakistani Taliban played a role in the attempted attack on Saturday. If that is the case, it would be the group's first effort to attack the United States and the first sign of the group's ability to strike targets beyond Pakistan or Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Taliban, which on Sunday released a video taking credit for the attack, is a different organization from the Taliban groups that the United States is battling in Afghanistan.

Shahzad's ability to board a flight at Kennedy International Airport despite being the target of a major terrorism investigation was the result of at least two lapses in the response by the government and the airline, Emirates.

Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen who lived in Bridgeport, Conn., was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and other federal charges, several related to explosives. He was interrogated without initially being read his Miranda rights under a public safety exception, and he provided what the FBI called valuable intelligence and evidence.

He continued talking after being read his rights, the FBI said. Authorities charged him as a civilian, but he did not appear in court and no hearing had been scheduled.

"It is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in the country," Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference in Washington.

Shahzad had booked a ticket on his way to the airport and bought it with cash when he got there, according to officials, who spoke to the New York Times on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. He had boarded the plane but was taken off before it taxied away.

Investigators had been trying to find Shahzad after determining that he was the man who bought a Nissan Pathfinder from a Connecticut woman several weeks ago and had parked it just off Broadway on Saturday night, packed with gasoline, propane, fertilizer and fireworks. No one was hurt, but officials said the bomb could have been deadly on streets crowded with weekend revelers if it had ignited.

Officials said Shahzad had been placed on a no-fly list Monday afternoon, but they declined to explain how he had been allowed to board the plane.

A white Isuzu Trooper that Shahzad had apparently driven to Kennedy International Airport was found in a parking lot. Inside the Trooper, investigators discovered a Kel-Tec 9mm pistol, with a folding stock and a rifle barrel, along with several spare magazines of ammunition, an official said. Fearing the Izuzu might be rigged to explode, officials briefly cordoned off the area around it.

All of the passengers were taken off the plane, and they, their luggage and the Boeing 777 were screened before the flight was allowed to depart, about seven hours late, at 6:29 a.m. Two other men were also interviewed by authorities but released, according to one law enforcement official.

Holder said Shahzad had been providing "useful information" to federal investigators since he was pulled off the plane. Besides saying that he had received training in Pakistan, Shahzad said he had acted alone, a claim that was being investigated.

In Pakistan, developments unfolded quickly. Officials identified one of those arrested as Tauhid Ahmed and said he had been in touch with Shahzad through e-mail and had met him either in the United States or in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

Another man arrested, Muhammad Rehan, had spent time with Shahzad during a recent visit there, Pakistani officials said. Rehan was arrested in Karachi just after morning prayers at a mosque known for its links with the militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad.

Pakistani officials promised to aid the United States "in bringing such culprits to justice," the Pakistani interior minister, Rehman Malik, said in a telephone interview as he announced the seven or eight arrests.

Terror suspect admits Times Square bomb plot, officials say 05/04/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 4, 2010 11:16pm]
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