Set in motion just two months ago, the plan to explode a sport utility vehicle in Times Square was born of Faisal Shahzad's anger over U.S. treatment of Muslims, a law enforcement source told Newsday Wednesday.
In continuing interrogations of the accused car bomber Wednesday, investigators have learned much about Shahzad's plans and are establishing a firm timeline of
"It appears from some of his other activities that March is when he decided to put this plan in motion," NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee Wednesday. "He came back from Pakistan Feb. 3, 2010. It may well have been an indicator of putting something catastrophic in motion."
Shahzad has told investigators that he acted alone out of anger about U.S. treatment of Muslims after returning from a five-month trip to Pakistan with his family, but he has not been specific about the causes of his anger, a law enforcement official told Newsday.
"It was a generic anger," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Can't confirm claims
Since Shahzad's arrest Monday night at Kennedy Airport, investigators have tried to confirm his claims about bomb-making training in a lawless region of his native Pakistan or to determine whether he received help from Islamic militant groups, sources told Newsday.
Shahzad has yet to appear in federal court in Manhattan, and while federal prosecutors offered no official explanation of the delay Wednesday, sources said Shahzad was continuing to cooperate and provide information.
"It doesn't happen a lot, but when it does happen it usually happens when the defendant is cooperating with authorities," said one Manhattan defense attorney not connected to the case.
Authorities say Shahzad has admitted to driving a rusty Nissan Pathfinder full of firecrackers, propane tanks, gasoline and fertilizer into Times Square on Saturday afternoon and rigging it to explode. Fifty-three hours after the car bombing attempt, he was caught aboard a Dubai-bound plane minutes before it was to take off.
"I was expecting you," he told federal Customs and Border Protection agents when they found him on the airliner, according to a law enforcement source.
In Washington D.C. Wednesday, Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said federal authorities, not New York City police, lost track of Shahzad Monday shortly after he had been identified as the main suspect, allowing him to drive to New York and board the plane.
"I don't know why they lost surveillance on him," Kelly said at a press briefing after the hearing. "But this is not that unusual in surveillance matters. When you're following someone in a narcotics case, or a gun case, or any case, it happens."
Seeking neighbors' help
Federal agents have turned to Shahzad's neighborhood to fill in some of the blanks, asking next-door neighbor Brenda Thurman: "Did he ever mention anything about not being happy in the country?"
They asked if he ever mentioned anything political, or if his wife ever mention anything political, Thurman said. She said she answered no to each of those questions.
Agents also seized a computer Shahzad and his wife gave their neighbor's daughter Asia, 10.
Landlord Stanislaw Chomiak said the officials who raided Shahzad's Bridgeport apartment took photos of Shahzad but left his food, clothes, bed and Islamic materials, including books. Muslim leaders in Connecticut said they'd never seen Shahzad at mosques.
Gun bought in MarchInvestigators have also visited a Shelton, Conn., gun store where Shahzad purchased a 9-mm semiautomatic rifle in mid-March, when the Times Square plot began in earnest, Kelly said. The weapon, along with ammunition, was found in Shahzad's car at the airport after he told investigators where it was, police said.
Shelton Police Chief Joel Hurliman said Shahzad had passed a criminal-background check and legally bought the gun from Valley Firearms. A check showed him to be mentally fit and without a criminal record, Hurliman said, adding that Shahzad picked up the gun after a 14-day waiting period.
In New York, police now have a security camera photo of Shahzad in Shubert Alley, a half-block from where the bomb-laden SUV was left.
Three days before trying to detonate the bomb, Shahzad made a dry run, said a law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press. The bomb in the Nissan Pathfinder was "much larger" than what police normally encounter, NYPD bomb squad Sgt. John Ryan said.
"Being in Times Square, your radar goes up a little higher," Ryan said. "But it's just something we do. It's muscle memory. You do it, you get used to doing it."
The latest developments
One of the men arrested in Pakistan Tuesday in connection with the failed attempt to bomb Times Square is a member of Jaish-e-Muhammad, an al-Qaida-allied Pakistani militant group, intelligence sources in
Karachi told the Los Angeles Times yesterday. However, law enforcement officials in the United States said they have been unable to link accused bomber Faisal Shahzad, 30, to any terrorist group or training camp. Sheik Mohammed Rehan allegedly drove with Shahzad from Karachi to Peshawar on July 7, 2009, returning to Karachi on July 22, authorities said. It's not known why they went to Peshawar and whether they met with anyone there. Jaish-e-Muhammad emerged in the mid-1990s as a militant organization focused on overthrowing Indian forces in Kashmir, the disputed region claimed by India and Pakistan.
Shahzad was videotaped in Pennsylvania buying consumer-grade fireworks that a store official said were not strong enough to make a powerful bomb. Bruce Zoldan, president of Ohio-based Phantom Fireworks, said Shahzad was captured on surveillance video buying fireworks within the past two months.
Investigators discovered Shahzad's name because of a telephone number he provided when he returned to the United States from Pakistan in February, a law enforcement official told The New York Times. The phone number was entered in a Customs and Border Protection agency database and came up Monday when investigators were checking records of calls made to or from the prepaid cellular telephone used by the purchaser, at that point unidentified, of the sport utility vehicle rigged with explosives in Times Square.