Thursday, May 6, 2010

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Times Square Bomb Attempt (May 1, 2010)

Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times

Updated: May 6, 2010

A crude car bomb made from gasoline, propane, firecrackers and alarm clocks was discovered in a smoking Nissan Pathfinder in the heart of Times Square on May 1, 2010, prompting the evacuation of thousands of tourists and theatergoers on a warm and busy night. Although the device had apparently started to detonate, there was no explosion. Just before midnight on May 3 — 53 hours later — a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, Faisal Shahzad, was pulled from a Dubai-bound airliner at John F. Kennedy International Airport and arrested in connection with the incident.

The following morning, a law enforcement official said that Mr. Shahzad had made statements implicating himself and saying he had acted alone. But hours after he was taken into custody, Pakistani officials arrested a number of suspects in connection with the car bomb; both countries are trying to determine the origins and scope of the plot. The Pakistanis said that two of the men held said they had been in contact with Mr. Shahzad during a five-month visit he paid to the country that ended in February 2010. One was taken into custody in Karachi just after morning prayers at a mosque known for its links with the militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad.

American officials said on May 5 that it was very likely that the Pakistani Taliban played a role in the failed plot. Evidence was mounting that the group helped inspire and train Mr. Shahzad. In a video on May 2, the group claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing.

Mr. Shahzad had recently returned to his apartment in Bridgeport, Conn., after a five-month visit to Pakistan. He had once lived with his wife and two children in a single-family house in nearby Shelton. Mr. Shahzad was located after investigators traced the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that law enforcement officials say he abandoned after rigging it with explosive devices and parking it on West 45th Street during the busy pre-theater rush.

Mr. Shahzad bought the vehicle from a Connecticut woman, Peggy Colas, on April 24, and authorities were able to identify him through an email address he had given her. A law enforcement official said the two met in a supermarket parking lot in Bridgeport, that Mr. Shahzad had given the Pathfinder a test drive — inspecting the interior seat and cargo area but not the engine — and that he negotiated the price down to $1,300 from the $1,800 initially sought by Ms. Colas. He paid with $100 bills, and the sale was handled without any formal paperwork.

Federal agents discovered Mr. Shahzad's identity through a telephone number provided by him on returning to the United States in February 2010 and stored in a Customs database.

Phone records indicate that a disposable cellphone purchased by the suspect was used to called a rural Pennsylvania fireworks store selling the type of fireworks found in the Pathfinder left in Times Square. The records also show calls made from Pakistan.

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The Incident

A video surveillance camera recorded what was believed to be the dark green Nissan Pathfinder driving west on 45th Street at 6:28 pm. Moments later, two street vendors on the sidewalk saw smoke coming out of vents near the back seat of the S.U.V., now parked awkwardly at the curb with its engine running and hazard lights on. They heard the sound of firecrackers going off inside and called out to a mounted police officer, who smelled gunpowder when he approached it and called for assistance. The police began evacuating Times Square, starting with businesses along Seventh Avenue, including a Foot Locker store and a McDonald's.

Police officers from the emergency service unit and firefighters flooded the area. The firefighters, who were responding to a report of a car fire, cleared the area and readied their hoses, but then decided to leave the Pathfinder for the bomb squad. The police also learned that the Pathfinder had the wrong license plates on it.

Members of the bomb squad donned protective gear, broke the vehicle's back windows and sent in a "robotic device" to "observe," said Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne, the police department's chief spokesman. Inside, they discovered three propane tanks, two five-gallon cans of gasoline, M88 fireworks — the apparent source of the "pops" — two clocks with batteries and a gun box. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg described the device by saying it "looked amateurish."

Most of the ingredients of the explosive device could have been bought at a home-supply store. The propane canisters were similar to those used for barbecue grills. The firecrackers were a consumer-grade variety sold legally in some states, including Pennsylvania.

The device was found in the back of the S.U.V., Mr. Kelly said, with the gasoline cans closest to the back seat and the gun locker behind them. The fertilizer was in eight clear plastic bags bearing the logo of a store that the police declined to identify. Wires from battery-powered fluorescent clocks ran into the locker, where a metal pressure-cooker pot contained a thicket of wires and more M88s, he said.

Investigators believed that the fuses on the firecrackers had been lighted but the firecrackers did not explode. The burning fuses apparently ignited a portion of the vehicle's interior, causing a small fire that filled the inside with smoke.

The Investigation

The Pathfinder was brought to a forensics center in Jamaica, Queens, where investigators scoured it for DNA evidence and hairs, fibers and fingerprints. F.B.I. agents and detectives from the Joint Terrorist Task Force worked at determining where the propane and gasoline were purchased.

The identity of the Pathfinder's registered owner was discovered through the 17-character vehicle identification number, which had been stripped from the dashboard but was stamped on the engine block and axle. The license plate on the S.U.V. was connected to a different vehicle awaiting repairs in Stratford, Conn., where F.B.I. agents and the local police awoke the owner of the repair shop at 3 a.m. on May 2. 

On May 3, federal agents spoke to Mr. Shahzad's landlord in Bridgeport, according to court papers. Soon after interviewing him, they first "got eyes on" Mr. Shahzad, according to law enforcement officials. He was in another car, one registered in his name, returning to his apartment from the grocery store.

Exactly how long investigators had him under surveillance is unclear. The suspect emerged from his home, got back in his car and headed south. Somewhere along the route, the investigators lost track of Mr. Shahzad, who paid cash for a ticket on a jet headed to Dubai from New York's J.F.K. Airport.

But as the airplane pulled away from the gate, investigators caught up with Mr. Shahzad. The suspect was taken from his seat and arrested.

A phone-record link underscored the combination of investigative skill, increased government integration and sheer luck that helped authorities track down the suspect. Investigators discovered Mr. Shahzad's name because of the telehone number he gave returning to the United States from Pakistan in February, a law enforcement official said on May 5.

That number was entered in a Customs and Border Protection agency database and came up May 3 when investigators checked the record of calls made to or from the prepaid cellular telephone used by the purchaser — at that point unidentified — of the vehicle used in the failed bombing. Once investigators had Mr. Shahzad's identity, they were able to put his name on a no-fly list that ultimately led to his capture.

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ARTICLES ABOUT THE TIMES SQUARE BOMB ATTEMPT (MAY 1, 2010)

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Times Square Hullabaloo

As someone who is fond of Times Square, where the Incompetent Bomber parked his Pathfinder last Saturday, I take a personal interest in this case.

May 6, 2010
MORE ON THE TIMES SQUARE BOMB ATTEMPT AND: NEW YORK CITY, SHAHZAD, FAISAL
    When a Suspect Likes to Talk, and Talk

    The suspect in the Times Square terror case has waived his right to a quick arraignment, but there are risks in a delay in getting the case into court

    May 6, 2010
    MORE ON THE TIMES SQUARE BOMB ATTEMPT AND: TERRORISM, SHAHZAD, FAISAL
      Fear Itself

      A familiar group of politicians is cynically trying to use the Times Square bomb plot as an excuse to weaken the rule of law. It would not make us safer.

      May 6, 2010
        Suspect Was Tracked Through Phone Numbers
        Suspect Was Tracked Through Phone Numbers

        Investigators quickly found the name of the bomb suspect using call records and data about travelers in an F.B.I. database, a law enforcement official said.

        May 5, 2010
        MORE ON THE TIMES SQUARE BOMB ATTEMPT AND: TERRORISM, PAKISTAN, SHAHZAD, FAISAL
          Money Woes, Long Silences and a Zeal for Islam

          Faisal Shahzad and his wife, Huma Mian, came from privileged backgrounds, he in Pakistan, she in Colorado.

          May 5, 2010
          MORE ON THE TIMES SQUARE BOMB ATTEMPT AND: TERRORISM, PAKISTAN, SHAHZAD, FAISAL
            Suspect’s Gun Proved Easy to Obtain

            Mr. Shahzad made missteps while he was building his bomb but all along he was in possession of a weapon that could have easily done extreme damage.

            May 5, 2010
            MORE ON THE TIMES SQUARE BOMB ATTEMPT AND: FIREARMS, TERRORISM, SHAHZAD, FAISAL
              The New Chapter: A Times Sq. Suspect
              May 5, 2010
              MORE ON THE TIMES SQUARE BOMB ATTEMPT AND: TERRORISM, NEW YORK CITY
                Evidence Mounts for Taliban Role in Bomb Plot
                Evidence Mounts for Taliban Role in Bomb Plot

                American officials said that it was very likely that a radical group, the Pakistani Taliban, had played a role in the Times Square bombing attempt.

                May 5, 2010
                MORE ON THE TIMES SQUARE BOMB ATTEMPT AND: TERRORISM, PAKISTAN, TEHRIK-E-TALIBAN, SHAHZAD, FAISAL
                  Government Tightens No-Fly Rules

                  The government tightened its no-fly rules amid questions about how a Pakistani-American man was allowed to board a plane after being linked to a failed car bombing.

                  May 5, 2010
                    Questions and a Purchase at a Pennsylvania Fireworks Store

                    The owner of Phantom Fireworks offered an account of Faisal Shahzad’s visit based on a review of security videos and conversations with employees.

                    May 5, 2010
                    MORE ON THE TIMES SQUARE BOMB ATTEMPT AND: FIREWORKS, TERRORISM, PENNSYLVANIA, SHAHZAD, FAISAL
                      Luck and Vigilance

                      The near disaster in Times Square is another reminder of why New York deserves more federal antiterrorism financing and why citizens can’t let down their guard.

                      May 4, 2010
                        From Suburban Father to a Terrorism Suspect

                        Mr. Shahzad collected a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree before he obtained citizenship through marriage to a woman who was born in Colorado.

                        May 4, 2010
                        MORE ON THE TIMES SQUARE BOMB ATTEMPT AND: TERRORISM, SHAHZAD, FAISAL
                          A Renewed Debate Over Suspect Rights

                          The arrest of a suspect in the attempted car bombing in Times Square revived the volatile political debate over terrorism policy.

                          May 4, 2010
                            A Suspect Leaves Clues at Every Turn

                            Faisal Shahzad, arrested on suspicion of planning the attempted car bombing in Times Square, seemed to try to cover his tracks.

                            May 4, 2010
                            MORE ON THE TIMES SQUARE BOMB ATTEMPT AND: TERRORISM, SHAHZAD, FAISAL
                              Lapses Allowed Suspect to Board Plane

                              Investigators lost sight of Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the Times Square bomb case, and the airline did not check a revised no-fly list.

                              May 4, 2010

                                SEARCH 27 ARTICLES ABOUT THE TIMES SQUARE BOMB ATTEMPT (MAY 1, 2010):

                                Page: 1 | 2 | Next >>

                                Multimedia

                                At the Scene of the Attempted Bombing

                                Diagram showing the neighborhood where a car bomb was found Saturday night.

                                Multimedia

                                Timeline: Faisal Shahzad

                                A timeline of key dates in the life of Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan who confessed to planting a car bomb in Times Square.

                                Suspect Charged with Bomb Plot

                                Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American man living in Connecticut, was charged in the failed plot to detonate a car bomb in Times Square.

                                Bomb Scare in Times Square

                                A car bomb was discovered in a smoking Nissan Pathfinder in the heart of Times Square on Saturday evening.

                                More Multimedia »

                                Room for Debate
                                Times Square, Bombs and Big Crowds

                                How can we prevent terrorist attacks in crowded areas? Do security cameras make a difference?

                                Multimedia

                                Man Arrested Over Failed Car Bombing

                                A naturalized United States citizen from Pakistan man was arrested in the failed car bombing in Times Square.

                                Examining Evidence in Bomb Scare

                                Investigators are combing through evidence to try to determine who left a car bomb in Times Square.

                                Bomb Found in Times Square (MSNBC)

                                Authorities quickly evacuated Times Square in Manhattan after a street vendor alerted police to smoke billowing from the back of a vehicle.

                                More Multimedia »

                                Photos

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