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Arrest made in N.Y. bomb case

U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder identifies the suspect as Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent. He had been trying to board a plane to Dubai.

May 04, 2010|By Tina Susman, Richard A. Serrano and Geraldine Baum, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from New York and Washington — An arrest was made overnight in New York in connection with the attempted car bombing in Times Square, police said early Tuesday, after a government official said investigators were focusing on a man of Pakistani descent who has been living in the United States.

"Law enforcement can confirm an arrest has been made," a spokesman for the New York Police Department said shortly after midnight.

U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. spoke at an early morning news conference in Washington and identified the man as Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent.

"It's clear the intent behind this terrorist attack was to kill Americans," Holder said.

He said Shahzad was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens as he attempted to fly to Dubai.

Holder indicated more arrests would be made. "This investigation is ongoing. It is multifaceted," he said. "We will not rest until we have brought everyone responsible to justice."/

Earlier, a government official in Washington had said police and FBI agents were closing in on a man of Pakistani descent and suspected the man had not acted on his own when he left a Nissan Pathfinder laden with explosives in Times Square on Saturday.

The amount of explosive material inside the SUV — which included about 100 pounds of fertilizer as well as a large metal gun box, firecrackers, cans of gasoline and three propane tanks — suggested that it took two people to prepare it, especially in secret, the official said.

However, the official, who declined to be identified because he said the investigation was sensitive and moving fast, described the work as "done with little sophistication." He also noted that if the assailants were trained by a Middle Eastern terrorist group, it likely "would have been a suicide bombing."

Attention turned to the man after the vehicle's previous owner recalled selling it to someone who was either Arabic or Latino.

The Associated Press reported that the buyer had traveled recently to Pakistan and lived in Connecticut, one of three states, including New York and Pennsylvania, that have figured into the investigation.

The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the incident, but Obama administration officials, including Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, insisted Monday it was too early to draw any conclusions as to the legitimacy of the claim or to speculate if the attack was a case of domestic or international terrorism.

"No leads are being discarded," Napolitano said, but added, "This is an open investigation that really is in its beginning stages."

Holder resisted labeling the attempt a "terrorist incident," even though he said there could have been a "substantial loss of life" if the bomb had gone off. "We have some good leads," he said.

Law enforcement officials say they don't know if the person was an amateur or a seasoned terrorist whose bomb simply malfunctioned. Earlier Monday, police were seeking information on a slim, balding man captured on a surveillance camera as he walked away from the scene in what Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called a "furtive manner."

Although the video was aired throughout Monday, nobody had come forward to identify the man.

Kelly and the FBI refused to comment on reports that the SUV had been sold about three weeks ago on Craigslist. CNN reported that the transaction took place at a Connecticut shopping center and that the new owner never registered the vehicle. Kelly said the person who would have sold the vehicle was not under suspicion.

"We have spoken to the owner of record, and the owner of record is not a suspect," he said.

Kelly has said the car bomb, made of easily purchased items, including alarm clocks and gasoline, could have sent a "significant fireball" hurtling through one of the world's busiest tourist spots. Holder said that whoever was responsible "intended to spread terror across New York."

The incident, coming months after a foiled plot by Afghan immigrants to blow up New York subways, underscored the vulnerability of heavily policed Times Square, which since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been under close watch by police and scores of surveillance cameras.

But Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said bystanders' attention and the reaction of police showed the ability of the city to respond to threats, and that the bustling crowds in Times Square showed the city's resilience. "It's a sick and despicable act, but New Yorkers are going about their normal activities," Bloomberg said.

The city returned to work Monday, seemingly unfazed by the idea that a bomber remained on the loose.

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