3 Pak Men Arrested in Connection with NY Terror Plot

Betwa Sharma/New York
3 Pak Men Arrested in Connection with NY Terror Plot
Tracing Times Square bomb plot suspect's financial links, FBI has arrested three Pakistani men in a series of raids across America's northwest.

The men - two in Boston suburbs and one in Maine - were arrested on Thursday and authorities said they supplied funds to Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad who attempted to blow up a Nissan Pathfinder packed with explosives in the crowded Times Square.

In coordinated raids, FBI teams centred on New York's Asian dominated suburbs of Long Island, the Boston suburbs and New Jersey. US Attorney General Eric Holder later said that these arrests were part of ongoing investigation and not because of any new threat.

The arrests in New York came as authorities in Pakistani port city of Karachi said a man detained in connection with the Times Square plot had told interrogators that he was an accomplice of Shahzad, the Washington Post reported.

The paper cited US officials, saying that the man detained in Karachi had provided an "independent stream" of evidence linking Pakistan Taliban to the failed May 1 attack and helping Shahzad to travel to Waziristan for training.

The paper quoted US intelligence officials as saying that the man detained in Karachi claiming to be Shahzad's accomplice "is believed to have connection to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)".

On the arrests made in New York, FBI said in a statement, "We can confirm that search warrants have been executed in several locations in the Northeast in connection with the investigation into the attempted Times Square bombing."

The men, whose identities were not revealed, were arrested for violation of immigration laws which are administrative.

A statement from of the office of US Attorney for New York Preet Bharara said, "it was not yet clear whether the men knew how the money was going to be used."

The New York Times cited law enforcement official as saying the arrests did not represent a "big break" in the case, but were part of an effort to pursue leads involving the financing of the May 1 attempted bombing.

Shahzad, was arrested on May 3 while trying to escape to Dubai on an Emirates flight. He was apprehended at the John F Kennedy airport. Several suspects have been arrested in connection with the same case in Pakistan.

FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz assured there was no immediate threat to the public or any active plot against the US.

Authorities have been tracing the money trail of Shahzad to find out if he was financed from overseas for planning the Times Square bombing.

Sources said that the Pakistani men passed money to Shahzad through the informal transfer network known as hawala.

Two of the arrested men had over stayed their visa and the third is in the process of repatriation.

Shahzad has waived his right to appear in the court daily since his arrest on May 1 on charges of trying to blow up a SUV packed with gasoline and propane.

Authorities raided a home in Watertown and a gas station and a vehicle in Brookline, a print shop in New Jersey and two homes on long island.

"These searches are the product of evidence that has been gathered in the investigation subsequent to the attempted Times Square bombing and do not relate to any known immediate threat to the public or active plot against the United States," the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said in a statement.

Shazad has reportedly been in touch with many of the well-known terrorists including a mastermind behind the Mumbai attacks, slain TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud and firebrand radical Yemeni cleric Anwar Awlaki who has been in contact with other extremist actors.

Thursday's raids were multi-pronged, following different "tentacles" of the Shahzad investigation, a federal law enforcement source said.

"We are focusing on many different things.... Where and how he got the money, from whom, who he met with, his friends, associates, where he traveled, phone calls, e-mails," an unnamed US official was quoted as saying by the CNN.

The CNN said the two individuals have been under surveillance at least since Wednesday in connection with a cash courier system involving the Times Square bombing attempt, a source close to the investigation said, but the source could not confirm that they were two of the three individuals taken into custody Thursday.
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