New York: A US national of Pakistani-origin has been arrested in connection with a failed terror plot to explode a car bomb in the heart of New York’s busy Times Square, media reports said.
The 30-year-old man identified as Pakistan-American Shahzad Faisal, who is a naturalised US citizen and a resident of Connecticut, was arrested on Monday night, reports said.
MSNBC television reported that the suspect Faisal was arrested Monday night on Long Island while CNN said the man was nabbed while trying to board a plane for an unknown location at John F Kennedy International Airport.
MSNBC said the man had been linked to explosives-laden Nissan Pathfinder seized late Saturday at the busy Times Square. The suspect bought the Nissan Pathfinder in recent weeks with cash from its last owner in Connecticut.
The investigators tracked down the registered owner by the vehicle identification number.
It is still not clear whether the man was acting individually or is part of a terrorist outfit and reports suggest that man had travelled to Pakistan recently.
The former owner identified the buyer was of Middle Eastern or Hispanic descent, but could not recall his name, the ‘New York Times’ said.
Authorities had launched a massive manhunt with the FBI’s anti-terror unit and New York police to try to catch the would-be bomber.
Meanwhile, the police and FBI in the New York are examining surveillance tapes from the surrounding buildings.
“Investigators and agents also were scouring international phone records showing calls between some of the people who might be associated with this and folks overseas,” an official who has discussed the case with intelligence officers was quoted as saying by ‘The Washington Post’.
The license plate on the car was apparently stolen from an auto repair shop outside Bridgeport, Connecticut, according to law enforcement officials, ABC News said.
Referring to the interviews with authorities in the administration, the CBS news said the buyer of the SUV is a man of Pakistani descent who recently travelled to Pakistan.
“Pending investigation. We are continuing to pursue leads in an effort to identify the individual or individuals who left the vehicle in Times Square,” FBI spokesman Paul Bersson earlier said.
The fresh terror plot by Pakistani-American came into light months after arrest of another Pakistani-origin American David Coleman Headley, who has been charged with plotting terrorists attacks in India and Denmark.
In March, US-based think-tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in a report said that the United States needs to refocus its efforts on extremists born and raised in American communities following a spurt in cases of arrest of ‘home grown terrorists’.
The report ‘A Growing Terrorist Threat’ Assessing Homegrown Extremism in the United States’ noted that facing comparatively few restrictions, US residents and citizens can travel abroad, connect with terrorist groups to gain explosives or weapons training, and return here to plan and execute attacks.
Referring to some of the high-profile arrests in 2009 including that of Najibullah Zazi, Headley and Nidal Malik Hasan, the report had said, this rash of arrests has important implications for policymakers and officials in charge of counter-terrorism and homeland security because US legal residents and citizens are lucrative assets for global terror groups.
“Particularly troubling are homegrown extremists who possess facility with both American and foreign cultures, including language skills. Such multicultural familiarity could allow them to operate freely both at home and overseas and to elude far more easily than foreign nationals,” it added.