International links likely in NY bomb plot

Terrorism charges against Faisal Shahzad have been filed after the Pakistani-American accused of planting a car bomb in Times Square was caught fleeing the US, as two people in Pakistan with links to the failed attack were also arrested.

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The 10-page criminal complaint accuses Shahzad, 30, of attempting “to use a weapon of mass destruction” to kill people in the crowded centre of New York on Saturday.

He was also slapped with four other charges – attempting to kill people in the United States through international terrorism, carrying a destructive device, transporting explosives and attempting to destroy a building.

Bomb-making training

The criminal complaint said that Shahzad received training in bomb-making in Pakistan’s unruly Waziristan region and that he carried a pre-paid cellular telephone through which he took calls from Pakistan ahead of the plot.

Pakistan detained two people linked to a Shahzad, and pledged full co-operation with the US investigation.

The two detained in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi were connected with the suspect through telephone records, a top security official told AFP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Fleeing to Pakistan

Shahzad was arrested Monday on board an aircraft at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport that was about to leave for Dubai. CNN reported that Pakistan was his likely final destination.

News reports said Shahzad, lived in Connecticut and had returned to the US recently from a five-month trip to Pakistan, where he visited Peshawar, a known transit point for Al-Qaeda and Taliban recruits near the Afghan border.

The two people detained in Karachi were being held “based on the telephone record of the New York accused,” the Pakistani security official told AFP.

Investigations were under way to determine whether they were the actual recipients of calls made from the accused’s cellphone or whether other people had been using the same numbers, he said.

Relatives implicated

A security official in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city and financial capital, confirmed that some people had been “picked up” but said they were not themselves suspects in Saturday’s attempted bombing.

The official declined to give further details but when asked whether the people were Shahzad’s relatives, he said “yes”.

The information adviser for Sindh province, in which Karachi falls, stressed however that “no arrests have been made” in the city in connection with Shahzad’s detention.

Police cooperation

“No US government agency has shared any information with Sindh government or Sindh police,” Jameel Soomro said.

Pakistani intelligence officials said Shahzad’s family were believed to have a home in Pabbi in northern Pakistan and another in Hayatabad, a smart district of Peshawar.

They also said his father was a retired air force officer.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters in Islamabad meanwhile that his country would give full co-operation to the US investigation into the failed New York attack.

‘Turn towards international terrorism’

“When an official request comes for that individual, we will cooperate,” Malik said.

The botched bombing and arrests have returned the spotlight to international extremist networks in Pakistan.

New York Republican Representative Peter King said the US investigation “is taking a definite turn toward international terrorism”.

Pakistan’s Taliban, which experts believe is increasingly close to Al-Qaeda, has been the only group to claim responsibility for the failed bombing.

Threats against US

Its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, threatened to attack US cities with suicide bombers in videos that emerged two days after the attempted New York bombing.

It was Mehsud’s first appearance since US officials said they believed he was likely killed in a drone strike in northwestern Pakistan on January 14.

Although the claim of responsibility by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan for the failed New York attack was widely dismissed, the case highlighted the nerve centre of militancy in the lawless Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

The United States has put Pakistan on the frontline of the war on Al-Qaeda and branded its border area with Afghanistan the most dangerous place in the world, where militant groups are believed train recruits from around the globe.


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