Times Square bomb plot: Shahzad acted alone?

The Pak-American accused of failed Times Square car bombing is believed to have been working alone.

Updated: May 06, 2010, 09:01 AM IST

New York: The Pakistani-American accused of the failed Times Square car bombing is believed to have been working alone when he began preparing the attack almost immediately after returning from his native land, authorities said on Wednesday.

They said they have yet to find a wider link to extremist groups.

Two new surveillance videos emerged of the bomb suspect, Faisal Shahzad. Police said that one video shows him in a white baseball cap and a dark jacket walking away from the smoking, bomb-laden Nissan Pathfinder parked in the bustling heart of New York City.

The second video shows him buying a weak batch of fireworks in a store in Pennsylvania, according to the shop`s owner.

One law enforcement official said that authorities don`t believe there are any other suspects in the plot and that several arrests in Pakistan in the past two days were not related.

Shahzad faces terrorism and weapons charges after authorities said he admitted rigging the Pathfinder with a crude bomb of firecrackers, propane and alarm clocks based on explosives training he received in Pakistan. Authorities said he was cooperating with investigators and did not appear in Manhattan federal court for a second day.

Authorities indicated that Shahzad, the 30-year-old son of a retired air force official in Pakistan, had launched the bomb plot alone almost immediately after returning to his Connecticut home in February from the visit to his native land.

He did a dry run three days before trying to detonate the car bomb, said a law enforcement official.

Shahzad drove the SUV to Times Square from Connecticut on April 28 apparently to figure out where would be the best place to leave it later, then returned to the area on April 30 to drop off a different vehicle, a black Isuzu, the official said. He then went back on Saturday to leave the SUV with the car bomb but forgot the keys for both vehicles in the SUV and had to take public transit back home, the official said.

He returned to Times Square on Sunday with a second set of keys to pick up the Isuzu, which he had parked about eight blocks from the bombing site, the official said.

New York police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told a Senate panel that Shahzad bought the gun found in his Isuzu at Kennedy Airport in March, when he appeared to move ahead on the bombing plot.

"It appears from some of his other activities that March is when he decided to put this plan in motion," Kelly said. "He came back from Pakistan on February 03, 2010. It may well have been an indicator of putting something catastrophic in motion."

Law enforcement officials in Washington said they had not verified statements investigators said Shahzad had made that he was trained in Pakistan for the attack. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the case.

The FBI was able to identify Shahzad`s name because of information Customs and Border Protection officials shared months earlier, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.

When Shahzad returned from Pakistan in February, he went through extra screening at US Customs because of rules put in place after the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day. Customs officials noticed Shahzad had travelled to Pakistan previously, but for weeks, instead of months like his most recent trip. Shahzad came back to the US without his family and without a return plane ticket.

When Customs officials come across people with suspicious travel patterns such as these, they send information along to the FBI.

As the FBI was following leads from the SUV left in Times Square, they found a phone number in the records of a throwaway cell phone that Shahzad had used when he was buying the SUV in Connecticut. The number matched a phone number Shahzad gave to Customs officials when he returned from his last trip. The FBI then contacted Customs about the match, and Customs provided other travel information on the suspect.

Police recovered the video showing Shahzad in the baseball cap walking along Shubert Alley moments after witnesses saw the Nissan Pathfinder ditched on Saturday in a no-standing zone across from a Broadway theatre, a law enforcement official said. Authorities were weighing whether to release the video.

Bureau Report