Saying that he wanted to kill as many people as possible to "avenge" U.S. attacks on Muslims, Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty Monday to a 10-count indictment charging him with attempting to set off a car bomb in Times Square on May 1 in a conspiracy with Pakistan's Taliban.
"I want to plead guilty and I'm going to plead guilty a hundred times over," said a calm, composed Shahzad, 30, showing no sign of repentance or anger as he recited a long list of grievances - American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, drone strikes, occupation of Muslim lands - during an hourlong hearing in Manhattan federal court.
"I am a mujahid, a Muslim soldier," Shahzad said, telling U.S. District Judge Miriam Cedarbaum that he chose the center of Times Square on a Saturday evening to achieve maximum carnage: "Damage to the building, and to injure people or to kill people."
Providing new details of the plot, Shahzad said he brought a semi-automatic rifle to Times Square for "self defense" and, after lighting the fuse, waited nearby to hear the sound of his Nissan Pathfinder explode - a sound that never came. Cedarbaum asked him how it made sense to indiscriminately kill civilians, even children, to protest U.S. government policies.
"The people select the government. We consider them all the same," Shahzad responded. "The drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don't see children. . . . They kill women, they kill children, they kill everyone. . . . I am part of the answer to the United States terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people. I'm avenging the attacks."
Shahzad, a Pakistani-American born in Karachi and living in Bridgeport, Conn., was captured at Kennedy Airport two days after the failed attack. He immediately confessed and began cooperating with authorities. His unexpected guilty plea at his arraignment Monday was not pursuant to any plea deal with the government.
He faces multiple life sentences on his plea to conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit a terrorist act, and other charges. Cedarbaum set his sentencing for Oct. 5. Prosecutors say a life sentence is mandatory.
Wearing a white skull cap, orange T-shirt, blue prison smock and sneakers, Shahzad entered the packed 14th floor courtroom with his hands cuffed behind him. The cuffs were removed, and Shahzad folded his hands in front of him or rested them on a table as he stood and addressed Cedarbaum.
He told the judge that after 10 years working in the United States, he went to Pakistan in 2009, just a couple of months after becoming an American citizen, to get terrorist training. After getting bomb-making lessons and $4,900 from the Taliban, he returned to the United States in February, leaving his wife and "two beautiful kids" behind with his parents.
Shahzad said he actually had three different bombs in the Nissan Pathfinder he parked at 45th Street and Seventh Avenue - a fertilizer bomb in a gun locker, a bomb with propane cylinders and a container of gasoline. After lighting the fuse and leaving, he expected one or all of them to ignite in 21/2 to 5 minutes.
"It seems that none of those went off, and I don't know the reason why they didn't go off," he said. ". . . I was waiting to hear a sound, but I couldn't hear any sound so I thought it probably didn't go off." He then walked to Grand Central Terminal and took a train back to Bridgeport, where he had an apartment.
Shahzad said that while he received financial assistance from overseas, he acted alone in building the bomb. He gave no details on money he received while in the U.S., including funds transferred to him at the Ronkonkoma Long Island Rail Road station.
"Hopefully, this is the last we see of him, ever, or hear of him," Wayne Rhatigan, 47, the NYPD officer from Holbrook who started the evacuation of Times Square that day, said of Shahzad. "Let the justice system put him away for a long time, and maybe it will deter others."
With Anthony M. DeStefano and Will Van Sant