It was nearly midnight. On board a late flight to Dubai from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Faisal Shahzad had just settled into his seat and was awaiting takeoff when agents with the Customs and Border Patrol came on board and arrested him. Within hours, the Department of Justice announced that Shahzad was suspected of driving a car bomb into Times Square just days earlier.
The car bomb—a rough concoction of ordinary items—was left at West 45th Street near Broadway in Manhattan. The makeup was reminiscent of bombings in Glasgow, Scotland and at a London nightclub last year. Although the crudely made bomb failed to detonate, police initially said that it would have created a fireball that would have killed or wounded many people. Thankfully, the failure of the device left what one U.S. official described as a "treasure trove of evidence in the unexploded car."
The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) had been removed from the dashboard, but using another VIN number on the engine block, agents tracked the car to its original owner in Connecticut. Investigators were then able to trace the sale of the vehicle to Shahzad, a 30-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan. Since the arrest, agents have carried out a search of the suspect's home in what has been described as an ongoing investigation. Speaking at a 1:30 a.m. press conference Attorney General Holder explained:
"This investigation is ongoing. It is multifaceted and it is aggressive….It's clear that the intent behind this terrorist attack was to kill Americans."
While the attack is now being characterized by American law enforcement as an act of terrorism, the investigation continues into whether or not there is a connection to a foreign terrorist group. The Pakistani Taliban initially claim responsibility for the car bomb in three videos that surfaced after the failed attack, but NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said that no evidence existed to support that claim. The news that Shahzad recently returned from a five month trip to Pakistan now provides at least a hint of evidence supporting a link to the Pakistani Taliban.
Shahzad will appear in federal court in Manhattan today where he will be formally charged. Although the charges remain unknown, they may include conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, the same crimes for which Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab and Mohammed Zazi were charged. A conviction for this offense would carry a life sentence for the man alleged to have attempted to set off a car bomb in Times Square.