NEW YORK — Seized from a plane about to fly to the Middle East, a Pakistan-born man admitted training to make bombs at a terrorism camp in his native land before he rigged an SUV with a homemade device to explode in Times Square, authorities said Tuesday.
Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen who recently spent five months in Pakistan, was arrested on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction charges in the attempt to blow up the crude gasoline-and-propane bomb amid tourists and theatergoers Saturday evening.
He was in custody after being hauled off a Dubai-bound plane at Kennedy Airport that he had been able to board Monday night despite being placed on the federal "no-fly" list. Authorities had planned to arrest Shahzad, who had been under constant watch from midafternoon, at his Connecticut home but lost track of him, two people familiar with the probe told The Associated Press. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to talk publicly about the breach in surveillance.
Because Customs and Border Protection agents were on the lookout for Shahzad, they recognized his name on a passenger manifest and ordered the flight stopped so they could arrest him.
Authorities shed little light on what might have motivated Shahzad — who since moving from Pakistan to Connecticut had acquired a master's degree in business administration and a house in the suburbs that subsequently was lost to foreclosure. He reportedly came from a background of privilege and wealth — the son of a retired air vice marshal.
A real estate broker who worked with Shahzad in 2004 said the bombing suspect had expressed a dislike for former President George W. Bush and his policy in Iraq.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Shahzad has been providing valuable information to investigators as they sought to determine the scope of the plot. "Based on what we know so far, it is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country," Holder said.
Holder and other U.S. officials did not elaborate on whether they believed any international terrorist group was involved.
The FBI read Shahzad his constitutional rights after he provided information, and he continued to cooperate, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole said.
Shahzad, 30, had been identified as the man who recently purchased the SUV and was added to the no-fly list early Monday afternoon.
Counterterrorism officials send electronic notifications to airlines when watch lists are updated, but it is up to the airlines to check the Web forum where the notifications are sent. If Emirates airlines had done this, the airline would have been able to flag Shahzad when he purchased his ticket that night. Because they didn't, law enforcement officials were not aware of his travel plans until they received the flight manifest 30 minutes before takeoff, the official said.
Customs and Border Protection officials, who were on the lookout for Shahzad since the early afternoon, recognized his name on the manifest and ordered the flight stopped so they could arrest him. The flight had not left the gate at that point, the official said.
Passengers on the flight, which arrived in Dubai about seven hours late on Wednesday, said there was no panic and the arrest was carried out quietly and calmly.
According to the criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, Shahzad confessed to buying the SUV, rigging it with a homemade bomb and driving it into Times Square. The complaint says he admitted to receiving bombmaking training in Waziristan, Pakistan.
The complaint charged Shahzad with trying to detonate a weapon of mass destruction, attempted car bombing and obstructing interstate and foreign commerce by trying to kill and maim U.S. citizens.
In Pakistan, authorities said they had detained several people in connection with the bombing attempt, although the FBI said it had no confirmation that these arrests were relevant to the case. President Barack Obama said "hundreds of lives" may have been saved Saturday night by the quick action of ordinary citizens and law enforcement authorities who saw the smoking SUV — a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder — parked in Times Square.
"As Americans and as a nation, we will not be terrorized. We will not cower in fear. We will not be intimidated," Obama said.
Married with two children, Shahzad had obtained U.S. citizenship after emigrating from Pakistan.
In 2004, he and his wife, Huma Mian, bought a newly built home for $273,000 at the height of the market in Shelton, Conn.
Like her husband, Mian was well educated. She graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2004 with a bachelor of science in business with an emphasis in accounting, the school said.
On her profile on the social networking site Orkut, she described herself as "not political" and said she spoke English, Pashto, Urdu and French. She listed her passions as "fashion, shoes, bags, shopping!! And of course, Faisal." She posted a picture of Shahzad, smiling, with the caption, "what can I say … he's my everything."
Last year, the couple abandoned the home.
Frank DelVecchio, a broker trying to sell it for Shahzad, said Shahzad told him to let the bank take the house because he owed too much on it and he planned to return to Pakistan.
In Bridgeport, Conn., authorities removed filled plastic bags and a bomb squad came and went from a house in a working-class neighborhood of multifamily homes. FBI agents found a box of consumer-grade firecrackers and other fireworks in the driveway that they were marking off as evidence.
Shahzad graduated from the University of Bridgeport with a bachelor's degree in computer applications and information systems in 2001 and later returned to earn a master's in business administration in 2005, the school said.
He had returned Feb. 3 from a five-month trip to Pakistan, saying he was visiting his parents, the complaint said.
Real estate broker Igor Djuric, who represented Shahzad when he was buying his home in 2004, said Shahzad made clear he didn't like Bush or his policy in Iraq.
Shahzad worked from mid-2006 to May 2009 as a junior financial analyst for the Affinion Group, a marketing firm in Norwalk, Conn. Company spokesman Michael Bush said Shahzad held a lower-level position dealing with the company's budget and projected income and left on good terms.
"It was a voluntary decision. … There was not firing or anything like that," Bush said.
Law enforcement officials say Shahzad answered an Internet ad for the Pathfinder and gave a cell phone number to the owner. They later used the cell phone number to track him and learn his name.
Shahzad paid $1,300 cash three weeks ago for the SUV.
The vehicle identification number had been removed from the Pathfinder's dashboard, but it was stamped on the engine, and investigators used it to track the owner of record.
The complaint said Shahzad apparently tinted the SUV's windows after buying it.
Several of Shahzad's current and former neighbors say he kept largely to himself.
"He usually walks around alone, looking lonely and kind of depressed usually," said Nejilia Gayden, 18, of Bridgeport. "Sometimes he'll mumble to himself."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the arrest should not be as used as an excuse for anti-Muslim actions. "We will not tolerate any bias or backlash against Pakistani or Muslim New Yorkers," he said.
Contributing: Eileen Sullivan, Pete Yost, Matt Apuzzo, Julie Pace, David Crary, Colleen Long, David B. Caruso, Sara Kugler, Chris Brummitt, Adam Schreck, John Christoffersen, Dave Collins, Stephen Singer, Pat Eaton-Robb, Stephanie Reitz and the AP News Research Center in New York