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Americas

Police reportedly identify rigged SUV owner as Pakistani-American

Video by Carla WESTERHEIDE

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-04

US authorities are looking to arrest the owner of the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that was rigged to explode in New York’s Times Square. The suspect is a naturalised United States citizen from Pakistan.

REUTERS - U.S. investigators want to arrest a Pakistani-American man they have identified as the buyer of the vehicle used in a failed car bombing in New York's Times Square, the New York Times reported on Monday.

The man recently returned from a trip to Pakistan, the newspaper said, citing people briefed on the investigation.

The naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, who lives in neighboring Connecticut, bought the 1993 Nissan sport utility vehicle with cash and no paperwork in the last three weeks, the Times said.

"Investigators who were tracking the man were also exploring whether he or others who might have been involved in the attempted bombing had been in contact with people or groups overseas," it said, citing unnamed federal officials.

Law enforcement sources told Reuters that Saturday's attempted attack may have involved more than one person and could have international ties.

The hunt for the suspects has now been taken over by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, led by the Justice Department.

Investigators -- who are poring over surveillance camera footage, the Pathfinder and the bomb parts for clues -- want to talk to a white man in his 40s captured on video near the vehicle shortly after it was left in Times Square.

Casualties, damage and chaos would have been certain if the crude bomb made of fuel and fireworks had gone off as the theater, shopping and hotel district was packed with people on a warm weekend evening.

For New Yorkers who bore the brunt of the Sept. 11 attacks by al Qaeda militants in 2001, the scare was a reminder that their city of 8 million people is under constant threat.

'Intended to terrorize'

Street vendors selling T-shirts and handbags alerted police to the smoking and sparking Nissan Pathfinder that was parked awkwardly with its engine running and hazard lights on near a Broadway theater where Disney's "The Lion King" is performed.

The Pathfinder, with a license plate taken from a car now in a repair shop in Connecticut, was rigged with propane gas cylinders, gasoline cans, fertilizer, fireworks and timing devices when it was found in Times Square.

"I would say that that was intended to terrorize," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters. "And I would say that whoever did that would be categorized as a terrorist."

The incident had little impact on Monday on a broadly stronger stock market and Treasury bonds stayed lower in a similarly muted reaction, with attention focused on encouraging economic data and reduced anxiety over Greece.

The registered owner of the vehicle told police he sold it three weeks ago without any paperwork to a 29- or 30-year-old man described as Hispanic or Middle Eastern, the sources told Reuters.

One law enforcement source said the apparent difference between the vehicle buyer and the man captured on video in Times Square gave "some credibility to the statement that (investigators) believe there is more than one individual involved and that it is international in scope."

But several officials cautioned against drawing conclusions because the investigation was still in the early stages.

"I can't at this point rule in or out the possibility of international connections," said one senior U.S. intelligence official.

Police said they plan to release a second video, taken by a tourist in Times Square and showing a man running near the scene at about the time of the incident.

The New York Times said investigators appear to be assigning less importance to the white man in his 40s seen removing a shirt in the first video released by police.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg described the failed bomb attack as an "amateurish job" but authorities said the device could have created a deadly fireball had it detonated.

"If anything was made clear on Saturday night, it's that New York is a target," U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a Brooklyn native, said as he urged Washington to give the city $30 million to boost security.

'Substantial progress'

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder vowed that those responsible would be arrested.

"We have made really substantial progress. We have some good leads," Holder told reporters in Washington. "We are following a number of other leads as well."

The Taliban in Pakistan said on Sunday it planted the bomb to avenge the killing in April of al Qaeda's two top leaders in Iraq. New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Bloomberg have said there was "no evidence" to support that claim.

But former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, who oversaw an Obama administration strategy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan last year, cautioned against dismissing a possible role of the Pakistani Taliban in the failed car bomb.

"They have said they want to attack inside the United States," Riedel said before the Times report, adding there was "a very serious possibility" the incident involved "some Pakistani-American who has never built a car bomb before in his life but who is being coached either by phone or Internet."


Date created : 2010-05-04

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