Two days after the failed car bombing at Times Square, US authorities arrested a Pakistani-American, Faisal Shahzad, late on Monday as he tried to flee the country while Pakistani authorities in Karachi detained a man identified only as Tauseef and said to be Shahzad’s friend.
<b1>Shahzad, 30, was stopped by US Customs and Border Patrol agents while attempting to take a flight to Dubai from JFK airport. Two other persons were also taken off the Emirates flight but they hadn’t been identified.
Investigators had earlier identified Shahzad — who became a US citizen in April 2009 — as a ‘person of interest’.
In a statement on Tuesday, US Attorney General Eric Holder said: “The investigation is ongoing... we continue to pursue a number of leads. But it’s clear the intent was to kill Americans.”
Increasing the likelihood the incident was part of a terror plot hatched outside the US, Holder said: “We will focus on not just holding those responsible accountable but also on obtaining intelligence about terrorist organisations overseas.”
Shahzad apparently spent five months in Pakistan, mostly in Karachi, and returned from that country recently.
Federal agents spent hours going over Shahzad’s residence in Connecticut. He was to appear in a New York court in the afternoon.
He is said to have paid $1,300 for the Nissan Pathfinder that was loaded with explosives and left in Times Square on a crowded Saturday evening.
The car’s previous owner, reports said, was contacted through the web and paid in cash.
Investigators had earlier discounted a responsibility claim by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. That claim was made in a video uploaded to a YouTube channel.
The channel was created a day prior to the attack. ABC News reported the video was uploaded by one or more persons in Connecticut.
Another audiotape — purportedly dated April 19 — in which the outfit’s chief Hakimullah Mehsud said he was alive (he was suspected to have been killed in a US drone strike), had graphics of targets in the US. That audio appears to have come from the same source.
Bahuktumbi Raman, formerly with India’s Research and Analysis Wing, said US investigators should not reject the Pakistan Taliban angle without “proper verification.”
On Monday, the White House too marked the Times Square incident a case of terrorism with spokesman Robert Gibbs saying: “I think anybody that has the type of material they had in the car, I would say that was intended to terrorise. And I would say whoever did that would be categorised as a terrorist.”
While Shahzad has reportedly said he was acting alone, investigators haven’t ruled out a possible international “nexus”, according to reports.