Times Square Plot: 3 Pakistanis Held In US, 1 In Pak

Betwa Sharma/New York
Times Square Plot: 3 Pakistanis Held In US, 1 In Pak
Three Pakistani men, who allegedly supplied funds to Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad, were arrested by FBI in a slew of raids across Asian-dominated suburbs, US authorities said, amid reports that another person linked to the botched plot had been held in Pakistan.

Two of the three Pakistanis were arrested in Boston suburbs yesterday while the other one in Maine, nearly two weeks after 30-year-old Pakistani-American Shahzad 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, Boston suburbs and New Jersey, authorities said and claimed that the three arrested men had supplied funds to Shahzad.

US Attorney General Eric Holder later said that these arrests were part of an ongoing investigation and not because of any new threat.

The arrests here came amid reports that an alleged accomplice of Shahzad had been held in Pakistan and had provided an "independent stream" of evidence linking the Pakistan Taliban to the failed May 1 Times Square attack.

Citing US officials, The Washington Post said the man arrested in Pakistan had also admitted to helping Shahzad to travel to Waziristan tribal belt for bomb training.

The paper quoted US intelligence officials as saying that the man arrested in Pak "is believed to have a connection to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)".

On the arrests made in the US, the FBI said in a statement that "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 officials 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 at the John F Kennedy airport on May 3 while trying to escape to Dubai on an Emirates light. Several suspects have been arrested so far 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 one was in the process of repatriation.

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

As part of their investigation, 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.

The raids yesterday were multi-pronged, following different "tentacles" of the investigation, a federal law enforcement source said.

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

The CNN said two individuals had been under surveillance at least since Wednesday in connection with a cash courier system involving the Times Square bombing attempt, but did not confirm whether they were among the three taken into custody yesterday.

Shahzad 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 elements.
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