NEW YORK - A Pakistani-American who prosecutors say admitted driving a car bomb into New York's Times Square waived his right to an initial court appearance on Wednesday to keep talking to investigators, sources said.
Faisal Shahzad, 30, who was born in Pakistan and became a U.S. citizen last year, has been charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and trying to kill and maim people within the United States as well as other counts.
Street vendors alerted police to a smoking vehicle parked awkwardly in Times Square on Saturday evening with its engine running and hazard lights flashing. Thousands of people were evacuated and a police bomb squad diffused the crude device, which included firecrackers and propane gas tanks.
The Taliban in Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the plot and a U.S. official said investigators see "plausible links" between Shahzad and the group, but had not yet made a final determination.
"TTP is entirely plausible but we're not ruling out other groups," the official said, referring to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. "It's important to develop a complete intelligence picture before reaching any final conclusion, but all the brush strokes aren't there yet."
CIA-operated drones have targeted Taliban figures in Pakistan's tribal areas and the group has vowed to avenge missile strikes that have killed some of its leaders. If confirmed that the group sponsored the failed bombing in New York, it would be their first attack on U.S. soil.
U.S. prosecutors said Shahzad, the son of a retired Pakistani vice air marshal, had admitted to receiving bomb-making training in a Taliban and al Qaeda stronghold in Pakistan. A law enforcement source said investigators believed the Pakistani Taliban financed that training.
"I HAVE BEEN EXPECTING YOU"
Shahzad was arrested on Monday night after he was removed from Emirates plane at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport that was about to depart for Dubai. He had been on his way back to Pakistan.
"I was expecting you. Are you NYPD or FBI?" local media reported Shahzad as saying to Customs and Border Protection agents when they approached him on the plane.
Shahzad waived his right to an initial court appearance within 48 hours of his arrest and other U.S. constitutional rights, a U.S. official and sources said. He faces life in prison if convicted of the charges against him, unless he negotiates a lesser sentence in exchange for cooperation.
"(Shahzad) was giving them intricate details as to what he did overseas," said a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation. "There was a determination that there wasn't anyone else in the (New York) area to target."
Shahzad bought a ticket with cash and boarded the plane even though he had been placed on a U.S. "no-fly" list earlier that day. On Wednesday, the Obama administration ordered airlines to step up their efforts to prevent people on the list from boarding flights.
Several of Shahzad's relatives were arrested in Pakistan after he was taken from the plane, Pakistani officials said.
Shahzad, a former budget analyst who worked for a marketing firm in 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 criminal defendants has been the subject of much political debate in the United States. Conservative opponents of President Barack Obama say they should be treated as enemy combatants and denied rights in order to collect intelligence.
But federal investigators have claimed success in gathering information from suspects -- even after reading them their rights. They cite the recent cases of a Nigerian charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane with a device hidden in his underwear, and that of a foiled New York subway bomber.
(Additional reporting by Edith Honan and Daniel Trotta in New York; Jeremy Pelofsky, Adam Entous and Andrew Quinn in Washington; and Zeeshan Haider in Mohib Banda, Pakistan; Editing by Chris Wilson)
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