As investigators search for a money courier who is suspected of helping finance the preparations of the would-be Times Square car bomber, the Pakistani Taliban denied any role in the plot and the White House sidestepped questions about links between foreign terror groups and Faisal Shahzad.
Officials have been investigating whether Shahzad got money from militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban. The group originally claimed responsibility for the bombing attempt, then backed off that claim.
Shahzad, who parked a bomb-laden Nissan Pathfinder in Times Square on Saturday evening, told investigators he went to a terror training camp in Pakistan during the winter, a claim that has not been confirmed, officials said.
U.S. law enforcement officials have traveled to Pakistan - where Shahzad spent five months before returning to the United States in February - to question four alleged members of an al-Qaida-linked militant group.
Gen. David Petraeus told The Associated Press on Friday that Shahzad was a "lone wolf" who was inspired by militants in Pakistan but didn't have direct contact with them.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Friday he believed Shahzad did not act alone, but he had seen no evidence suggesting the Pakistan Taliban were involved.
"All those leads, suggesting it was his own action, I will not accept that. I'd like to see details," Malik told reporters in Beijing. "Obviously, he had bought a vehicle filled with explosives. It looks a bit difficult [to say] that he's [working] alone."
A Pakistani Taliban spokesman said Thursday the group had nothing to do with the attempted bombing, but added: "Such attacks are welcome."
"We have no relation with Faisal. However, he is our Muslim brother," Taliban spokesman Azam Tariq told the AP in Pakistan by telephone from an undisclosed location. "We feel proud of Faisal. He did a brave job."
In their search to identify links to the failed attack on Times Square, Pakistani authorities this week arrested a man at a Karachi mosque run by the Islamist militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, which is affiliated with al-Qaida.
In Karachi, U.S. and Pakistani officials questioned four alleged members of Jaish-e-Mohammed, two Pakistani security officials told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The group is believed to have been established by Pakistani intelligence agencies and has been implicated in several terror acts in South Asia and in the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
A senior military official told The New York Times on Thursday that Shahzad, 30, told interrogators that during that visit to Pakistan, he met with Pakistani Taliban operatives in North Waziristan. The official said the online lectures of militant Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki inspired his attack.
The cleric has ties to previous terror attacks. The Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, in November exchanged a series of e-mail communiqués with al-Awlaki, officials said. And it is believed that a Nigerian accused of attempting to blow up a trans-Atlantic jetliner on Christmas Day met with al-Awlaki during training with al-Qaida, the Times reported.
Citing the ongoing investigation, the White House would not confirm if President Barack Obama discussed the Times Square attack in a meeting Thursday with his top counterterrorism advisers about Afghanistan and Pakistan, the AP reported.
The Daily News reported there may be growing skepticism about the validity of the terrorism Who's Who that Shahzad has claimed to know.
"The FBI investigation is going to take a significant amount of time, and although theories may be developed or floated by the media, it's our job to verify the facts" FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said Thursday. "These are complicated issues involving overseas liaisons, analysis of evidence and countless interviews."
With AP, John Valenti and Jennifer Maloney