A man identified as a US citizen of Pakistani origin, Faisal Shahzad, has been arrested in connection with an attempted car bombing in New York’s Times Square.
The man believed to be the driver of a sport utility vehicle was taken into custody early on Tuesday by federal and local police officials, while trying to leave the country, a law enforcement official said.
US Media has gone into overdrive in its analysis of the failed attack in the last few days, and the focus is now on Shahzad, with detailed descirptions of the man’s background and home life appearing within hours of the arrest.
Shahzad was identified by customs agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport and was stopped, according to officials who spoke to The Associated Press early Tuesday on the
condition of anonymity. He had recently returned from a five-month trip to Pakistan, where he had a wife, but was not apparently headed back there, the officials said.
He was being held in New York and couldn’t be contacted. His US hometown wasn’t disclosed.
Emirates later confirmed that three passengers were removed from a New York-Dubai flight, but did not comment on the specifics of the individuals.
The U.S. attorney’s office, handling the case, said Shahzad would appear in court Tuesday, but the charges were not made public.
Suspect bought SUV three weeks ago
Law enforcement officials say Shahzad bought the SUV, a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder, from a Connecticut man about three weeks ago and paid cash. The officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.
Authorities had launched a massive manhunt with the FBI’s terrorism task force and local New York police to try to catch the suspect.
New York has been on constant watch since the September 11, 2001, airliner attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, killing almost 3,000 people.
So far, the only group to claim responsibility for the would-be bombing is the Pakistani militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban.
When authorities recovered the SUV it was laden with three propane tanks, dozens of firecrackers, two tanks of gasoline and fertilizer, and parked at the corner or West 45th Street and Broadway, an area full of pedestrians.
The vehicle identification number had been removed from the Pathfinder’s dashboard, but it was stamped on the engine, and investigators used it to find the owner of record. The discovery was paramount to the investigation.
“The discovery of the VIN on the engine block was pivotal in that it led to the identifying the registered owner,” said Paul Browne, chief New York Police Department spokesman. “It continues to pay dividends.”