Monday 10 May 2010 | USA feed

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Times Square bomb suspect had links to terror preacher

A suspect accused of attempting to plant a bomb on New York's Times Square has ties with the Islamic preacher who inspired a US soldier to kill 12 comrades at Fort Hood and the Christmas Day would-be bomber.

 
The suspected Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad with his wife Huma Milan
The suspected Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad with his wife Huma Milan

Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born US citizen has told interrogators that he been inspired to take up the cause of al Qaeda and radical Islam by the internet messages of Anwar Al-Awlaki, a Yemen-based imam.

Awlaki, who was born in America, was accused of grooming Nidal Hasan in a series of emails before the US soldier opened fire at the Texas military base last year.

US officials also possess evidence that Awlaki held meetings with Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who attempted to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight on Christmas Day.

Last month, Barack Obama's administration took the rare step of authorising the assassination of the radical Muslim cleric, in a rare move against a US citizen.

The decision to add him to the US hit list required a National Security Council review because of his citizenship.

On Friday, a US official said that Awlaki was a crucial influence on Mr Shahzad. "He listened to him, and he did it," the official said.

Mr Shahzad has made wide-ranging admissions to interrogators since his arrest on Tuesday. The former financial analyst has said that he travelled to Taliban training camps in North Wazirstan, where he received training in bomb making. While there he met with Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of Pakistan's Taliban, whose death in a drone strike he was attempting to revenge by driving the car loaded with homemade explosives to America's most famous square.

Mr Shahzad also admitted that he had met with member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a separate group responsible for the attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.

Pakistani officials are co-operating with US attempts to establish Shahzad's links to militant groups based in the country.

Four members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group, which carried out the 2002 killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, have been taken into custody in Karachi.

Mr Shahzad's father, a former Pakistani Air Marshal, his father-in-law, wife and children have all been taken into protective custody.

The authorities claim to have put together a comprehensive picture of how the 30-year old prepared for the attack on his adopted homeland. Surveillance footage of Mr Shahzad in a shop where he bought commercial fireworks to place in the bomb, has been released.

"Shahzad has provided useful information, and we will continue to pursue a number of leads as we gather intelligence related to this attempted attack," the US Attorney General Eric Holder said.

Investigations into cash transactions indicated that Mr Shahzad received substantial support from foreign sources.

 
 
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