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NY bomb suspect talking, probe eyes foreign ties
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The suspected Times Square bomber is cooperating with investigators who want details about his contacts in Pakistan, postponing indefinitely any court appearance, law enforcement sources said on Wednesday.
Faisal Shahzad, 30, who was born in Pakistan and became a U.S. citizen last year, is accused of trying to kill and maim people with a car bomb in the heart of Manhattan on Saturday night. Authorities defused the bomb.
Formally charged with five terrorism-related counts, he faces life in prison if convicted unless he negotiates a lesser sentence in exchange for cooperation.
Shahzad has waived his right to an initial court appearance, a U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday.
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has also said Shahzad had waived his Miranda rights, which give him the right to an attorney, and was cooperating.
"(Shahzad) was giving them intricate details as to what he did overseas," a U.S. law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said. "There was a determination that there wasn't anyone else in the (New York) area to target."
Prosecutors say Shahzad, son of a retired Pakistani vice air marshal, drove a crude homemade bomb of gasoline, propane gas, fireworks and fertilizer into Times Square and fled.
Authorities defused the bomb and captured Shahzad two days later, plucking him from an Emirates airline flight to Dubai on his way back to Pakistan, where prosecutors say he had received bomb-making training. Investigators believe the Pakistani Taliban financed that training, a law enforcement source said.
Shahzad had bought a ticket and boarded the plane on Monday evening despite having been put on a U.S. government "no-fly" list earlier in the day. On Wednesday, the Obama administration ordered airlines to step up their efforts to prevent people on the list from boarding flights.
NUMBER OF PAKISTAN ARRESTS UNKNOWN
Several of Shahzad's relatives were arrested in Pakistan after he was removed from the plane, Pakistani officials said.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told a news briefing on Wednesday that the United States was still unable to verify the number of arrests made in Pakistan in connection with the case, but said U.S. officials might seek access to any detainees if they believed they were relevant to the probe.
"As our investigation here proceeds and to the extent it points to possible events in Pakistan I expect we will make specific requests of Pakistan in terms of cooperation," he said.
Shahzad, a former budget analyst who worked for a marketing firm in the U.S. state of Connecticut, came from a relatively privileged background that offered no hints of radicalism.
Residents of his home village of Mohib Banda were in disbelief. "I never observed any inclination for militancy," a close family friend told Reuters.
The issue of extending terrorism suspects the same rights as common criminal defendants has been the subject of U.S. political debate. Conservative opponents of President Barack Obama argue they should be treated as enemy combatants, denying them rights in order to gather intelligence.
But federal investigators have claimed success in gathering information from suspects -- even after reading them their rights -- in recent cases such a Nigerian charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane with a device hidden in his underwear, and an attempted New York City subway bomber.
Prosecutors say Shahzad admitted trying to set off the bomb and training in a Taliban and al Qaeda stronghold in Pakistan.
"He's giving us significant information," Kelly told NY 1 television late on Tuesday. "We want to learn as much as we can about him, we want to learn about the training, who gave the training, where did it happen."
Kelly said it was the 11th thwarted attack on New York City since hijacked airliners destroyed the World Trade Center's twin towers on September 11, 2001, killing more than 2,700 people.
Obama said the investigation would seek to determine whether Shahzad had ties with foreign extremist groups.
The Taliban in Pakistan on Sunday claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing, saying it was planned to avenge the killing in April of al Qaeda's two top leaders in Iraq as well as U.S. involvement in Muslim countries.
While some U.S. officials were sceptical about the claim, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told CBS News he believed the failed attack was a retaliation for the United States targeting Taliban followers.
"This is a blow back. This is a reaction. This is retaliation," he said. "Let's not be naive. They're not going to sort of sit and welcome you to eliminate them. They're going to fight back. And we have to be ready for this fight."
(Additional reporting by Edith Honan and Michelle Nichols in New York; Jeremy Pelofsky and Andrew Quinn in Washington; and Zeeshan Haider in Mohib Banda, Pakistan; Editing by Frances Kerry and Vicki Allen)
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