- guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 4 May 2010 21.30 BST
President Barack Obama vowed that Americans would not be cowed by the "murderous agenda" of violent extremists today as a US citizen of Pakistani origin, Faisal Shahzad, confessed to planting a car bomb intended to cause carnage in Times Square, New York.
Federal prosecutors tonight charged Shahzad with five criminal counts including transporting an explosive device and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, after plucking the 30-year-old computer expert from a flight at New York's Kennedy airport just moments before it was due to depart for Dubai.
According to court documents, Shahzad admitted that he had received bomb-making training in Waziristan, a lawless mountainous region of Pakistan near the Afghan border. As the plot took on an international dimension, police in Pakistan detained at least one man, said to be a friend of Shahzad's, in the southern city of Karachi, on suspicion of involvement inthe botched carbomb that failed to detonate in Manhattan's packed theatre district on Saturday evening.
Obama, addressing a business organisation in Washington, described the attack as a "sobering reminder" of dangerous times: "Around the world and here at home, there are those who would attack our citizens and who would slaughter innocent men, women and children in pursuit of their murderous agenda."
He praised the work of investigators and offered an uncompromising assurance: "As Americans and as a nation, we will not be terrorised. We will not cower in fear, we will not be intimidated. We will be vigilant and we will protect and defend the country we love."
Shahzad, a computer expert who lives in suburban Connecticut, is accused of packing a Nissan Pathfinder with fertiliser, propane and petrol, using a pair of alarm clocks as crude timing devices, and parking the vehicle outside a theatre showing the Disney musical The Lion King. Two street vendors became suspicious and raised the alarm.
Shahzad was captured before midnight on Monday in a dramatic last-second arrest as his Emirates flight prepared for departure. Police found a gun in a car used by Shahzad to drive to the airport.
Eric Holder, the US attorney general, said Shahzad had admitted involvement in the attempted bombing and was providing "useful" information. "It is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country," said Holder.
Detectives tracked down Shahzad after tracing ownership of the Nissan, which had stolen number plates, from a serial number embossed on the engine. He had allegedly purchased the vehicle for $1,300 a week ago online.
Officials said Shahzad's name was placed on a no-fly list on Monday. He bought a ticket by phoning Emirates while driving to the airport. His identity was flagged as the plane was about to depart.
Shahzad, a newly naturalised US citizen, has three university degrees, including an MBA. He recently visited Pakistan, where police confirmed that he came from Nazimabad, a middle-class neighbourhood in Karachi. Officials said that Shahzad arrived in Pakistan on 3 July last year and left in early August. During that trip he reportedly travelled to Peshawar, on the edge of the tribal belt where the army is fighting the Taliban.
In Islamabad, the US ambassador, Anne Patterson, held meetings with the Pakistani foreign minister, Shah Mehmood, Qureshi, and the interior minister, Rehman Malik. Both pledged to "co-operate and work closely on this issue", an embassy spokesman said.
In New York, one theory is that the bomb may have been deliberately placed near the headquarters of the media group Viacom, which owns the television station Comedy Central. A recent episode of the satirical cartoon South Park, broadcast by Comedy Central, depicted the prophet Muhammad wearing a bear costume. A local extremist group, Revolution Muslim, accused the broadcaster of insulting Islam.
The device left in Times Square had common features with foiled car bombings at Glasgow airport and at the Tiger Tiger nightclub in London three years ago.
A British counter-terrorist official said: "Superficially they look similar [but] the only similarity is that it was such a crude device."
In both cases the devices were designed from a simple concept: the use of a rudimentary detonator to ignite a mixture of air, propane and petrol.
New York's police chief, Ray Kelly, said the case also had similarities with a car bomb detonated under the World Trade Centre in 1993, which killed six people. The perpetrators then were also caught after police identified a vehicle through serial numbers beneath the bonnet.