U.S. authorities have arrested a suspect trying to flee the country after last week's attempted car bomb in New York City's Times Square. Shahzad Faisal, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, was arrested by Customs and Border Protection officers Monday night at JFK International Airport in New York. Sources said that the task force assigned to the case waited to see if the suspect met anyone at the airport before arresting him.
The Nissan Pathfinder, parked in the heart of the city on Broadway and West 45th Street, was rigged with two 5-gallon containers of gasoline, three canisters of propane and some firecrackers, eight bags of fertilizer and several alarm clocks. No motive has been established.
A surveillance video showed a man walking away from the scene where the Pathfinder was parked, looking over his shoulder. He was seen quickly stripping off a dark shirt and stuffing it in his bag, and walking away wearing a red shirt instead.
A Pakistani Taliban group initially claimed responsibility, but one U.S. security official interviewed on an American radio station Monday evening said its veracity could not be confirmed. “They claim credit for everything, including traffic jams, in New York,” he said.
The vehicle had been parked at the curb with its engine running and the flashers on. Two street vendors flagged down a mounted police officer when they noticed smoke drifting up from the empty vehicle. The officer later said that he noticed a flash, which intensified his suspicions, prompting him to immediately call for backup and to evacuate the area.
NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told The New York Times that the bomb “would have caused casualties, a significant fireball.”
The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force has taken over the investigation of the incident from the NYC Police Department due to possible links with international terrorism, a senior security official told the Washington Post.
Earlier reports said a possible suspect had traveled recently to Pakistan, but they did not name the source due to the sensitivity of the investigation. The suspect had allegedly paid cash weeks ago for the SUV that he parked in Times Square.
NBC News reported there was other evidence linking the owner of the vehicle, a Connecticut resident, to the attempted bombing, including an email with his name on it that had been sent to the seller of the car last month.
Investigators have also discovered that the license plates on the vehicle did not belong to the Pathfinder. A dealership sticker on the car led investigators to an auto sales shop in nearby Bridgeport, Connecticut – but the business owner said the identification numbers that were on the Pathfinder's engine and axle did not match any vehicle that he sold.
Worldwide Terror Directed from Pakistan?
At least one Pakistani-based terrorist group appears to be extending its reach into the worldwide arena, although it is not clear whether in fact this group has had any connection with last week's failed bombing attempt in Times Square.
Lashkar-e-Taiba, literally Army of the Righteous, is one of the largest and most active Islamist terror organizations in southern Asia, based near Lahore, Pakistan.
Lashkar-e-Taiba is also known to have ties with the Taliban, as well as the international al Qaeda terrorist organization that carried out the “9/11” terror attack on the NYC World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. It is banned as a terrorist organization by the United States, as well as India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, the EU, Russia and Australia.
The group was responsible for the massive November 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, India in which 175 people were killed and 308 were injured. Among the dead were Rabbi Gavriel and Mrs. Rivka Holtzberg, Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries to the city, and four of their guests at the Nariman Chabad House.