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Authorities arrest man over New York car bomb plot

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-05-04

US investigators have arrested a man in connection with the failed Times Square car bombing in New York. The suspect, Faisal Shahzad, was detained while attempting to board a plan from New York to Dubai.

In their first arrest since the weekend’s failed car bombing in New York’s Times Square, US authorities have detained a suspect named Faisal Shahzad as he was trying to board a plane from New York’s JFK airport to Dubai, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced early Tuesday.

Holder reported the arrest at a hastily called press conference in Washington just after midnight local time. But he provided few details into the investigation, which he described as “ongoing, multifaceted and aggressive”.

US media reports say Shahzad is a Connecticut-based naturalised US citizen of Pakistani origin. He is expected to appear at a Manhattan Federal Court later Tuesday.

Reporting from Washington, FRANCE 24’s Guillaume Meyer said US authorities would be questioning the man in order to determine if he was working alone or was part of an extensive network.

In a statement released later Tuesday, Emirates Airlines said three passengers were removed from flight EK202 from New York to Dubai on Monday night.

"Full security procedures were activated, including the deplaning of all passengers and a thorough screening of the aircraft, passengers, and baggage. Emirates is cooperating with the local authorities," the statement added.

The owner of the Nissan Pathfinder

The New York Times reported that Shahzad is believed to have bought the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that was found loaded with gasoline, propane gas tanks and fireworks in the heart of Times Square Saturday night.

The car was advertised on several Web sites and was sold three weeks ago, according to US media reports.

Quoting unnamed law enforcement sources, the New York Times disclosed that the former owner told investigators that the buyer appeared to be of Middle Eastern or Hispanic descent, but that she could not recall his name. The car was paid for in cash and there was no paperwork involved in the transaction.

A 30-year-old resident of Bridgeport Connecticut, Shahzad became a US citizen in April 2009, making it easy for investigators to access information about his address, his appearance and fingerprints, according to CNN.

What was Shahzad doing on his trip to Pakistan?

Shahzad is also believed to have previously travelled to Pakistan, where he reportedly spent a five-month period in Peshawar, the north-western Pakistani city considered the gateway to the lawless tribal region along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Reporting from Pakistan, FRANCE 24’s Stephen Kloss said Pakistani authorities were saying little about the latest incident. “This incident in New York is seen as something very embarrassing here,” said Kloss. “But certainly the US Embassy in Pakistan will push authorities in Pakistan very hard to start an investigation. What will be very interesting to learn is what did Faisal Shahzad do when he was here for that five-month period - to whom did he talk and where did he go.”

A senior Pakistani government official told AFP Tuesday that the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, has since held talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Describing it as an “initial discussion,” the official stressed that the Pakistani government would “extend its fullest cooperation to the US”. No further details were provided.

Authorities urge caution over Pakistani Taliban claim

So far, the only group to claim responsibility for the bomb plot is the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban, a Pakistan-based group led by Hakimullah Mehsud.

Mehsud was believed to have been killed months ago, but a series of videos posted on the Internet, which were apparently recorded in early April showed Mehsud warning that, "The time is very near when our fedayeen (fighters) will attack the American states in their major cities."

US authorities have however urged caution over suggestions that the al Qaeda-linked group is connected to the weekend’s bomb plot.

A car full of clues

Days after the Times Square botched car bomb plot, the investigation appeared to be moving rapidly primarily due to the number of leads available to investigators.

The explosives in the Nissan Pathfinder failed to work on Saturday night, leaving the car, packed with forensic evidence, largely intact.

“Investigators are now working out who bought the car, where the materials came from, and they have a lot of clues such as DNA material and fingerprints that will help them,” said Meyer.

Man in T-shirt in video footage probably not connected to plot

Authorities also have CCTV footage from the more than 80 cameras stationed in the heart of downtown Manhattan extending from 34th Street to 51st Street.

Earlier this week, US media reports identified footage of what appeared to be a white man in Times Square looking over his shoulder a couple of times before taking off his pink T-shirt.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has however acknowledged that the man in the video might not be connected to the car bomb plot. But, he added, investigators still wanted to speak to that man.

Date created : 2010-05-04

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