Guilty Plea in Failed Times Square Car Bombing

Failed Times Square Car Bombing

Updated: October 6, 2010


A naturalized American citizen from Pakistan who warned that “the defeat of the U.S. is imminent” has been sentenced to life in prison for trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square.


On October 5, 2010, Faisal Shahzad, 31, was sentenced to life in prison for attempting to detonate an explosives-laden car in Times Square five months earlier. “Brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun,” Shahzad warned the judge during his sentencing. “Either you are with the mujahideen [Muslim warriors] or with the crusading Jews and Christians.”  


Shahzad also threatened that “the defeat of the U.S. is imminent” and that “we will keep on terrorizing you until you leave our lands.”  


Shahzad, who has described himself as a “Muslim soldier,” pleaded guilty in June 2010 to all charges of the 10-count indictment filed against him, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted act of terrorism transcending national boundaries and attempted destruction of property by fire and explosive. 


"I'm going to plead guilty 100 times over," Shahzad said, "because until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan, and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims, and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking U.S., and I plead guilty to that."


Shahzad was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport on May 3, 2010, while trying to fly to Pakistan. He was charged in a criminal complaint filed the following day and in an indictment returned by a federal jury in New York on June 17, 2010.


Shahzad has admitted leaving an SUV filled with a fertilizer-based bomb packed in a metal box in Times Square on May 1, 2010. Also in the car, which he purchased from a Connecticut woman three weeks prior to the attempted attack, were gasoline canisters and propane tanks rigged with fireworks.


Shahzad told the court that he received bomb-making training in December 2009 from Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistani Taliban, in Waziristan, an Al Qaeda and Taliban stronghold which serves as a center for launching attacks against U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. During the 40 days he spent in Waziristan, Shahzad made a "pact" with his trainers to "wage an attack inside the United States of America."


While in Pakistan, Shahzad was reportedly introduced to Qari Hussain, commander of TTP who trains suicide bombers. Shahzad returned to the U.S. in February 2010 with $5,000 from TTP, and, during the next two months, received $12,000 in cash from unnamed co-conspirators in Pakistan whom he believed worked for TTP.


Leaders of TTP claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing as revenge for the April killings of Al Qaeda's two top leaders in Iraq, as well as for U.S. interference in Muslim countries. Shahzad admitted that he attempted to detonate the explosives in New York as retribution for U.S. military activities in Muslim countries. "It's a war," Shahzad told the court, adding "I am part of that. I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people, and on behalf of that, I'm revenging the attacks."  


In July 2010, TTP released a video featuring Shahzad, entitled, “A Brave Effort by Faisal Shahzad to Attack United States in its own Land.” In the video, which was recorded in Pakistan six months prior to the attempted bombing in Times Square, Shahzad explained that he has been planning to join his “brothers in jihad” since the September 11 terrorist attacks. He also urged other Muslims in the West to follow his example. “It is not difficult at all to wage an attack on the West, and specifically in the U.S., and completely defeat them,” Shahzad said. “Get up and learn from me and make an effort.”


In the video, Shahzad claimed that an "attack on the United States will also be a revenge attack for all the mujahideen [Muslim warriors] and the muhajireen [emigrants] and the weak and oppressed people of Muslims [sic]." Shahzad also admitted that he was seeking revenge for the deaths of Beitullah Mehsud, the former leader of TTP who was killed in August 2009, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq who was killed in an airstrike in June 2006.


Shahzad also appeared in a video alongside Hakimullah Mehsud, the current leader of TTP, threatening that "we are planning to wage an attack on your side."


Prior to the attempted bombing in Times Square, Shahzad stayed in regular contact with members of TTP through software programs that they had installed on his laptop while he was training with them in Pakistan. For three months prior to the attempted attack, Shahzad also monitored Times Square through live video feeds online to determine “which areas of Times Square drew the largest crowds and the times when those areas would be most crowded,” according to court documents.


Law enforcement officials have alleged that the explosives would have sprayed shrapnel and metal parts, killing pedestrians, had they not been dismantled. Shahzad later admitted that he specifically targeted pedestrians because they would be easier to kill than people driving in vehicles.


According to authorities, Shahzad also considered attacking other targets, including Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Terminal, the World Financial Center and a Connecticut-based defense contractor that manufactures helicopters for the U.S. military. Shahzad told federal authorities that he was prepared to conduct more attacks until he was captured or killed.


Shahzad reportedly told investigators he was influenced by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric living in Yemen who targets English-speaking Muslim audiences with radical online lectures that encourage attacks against the West and non-Muslims. In addition, Shahzad reportedly admitted that he was also inspired by another cleric, Abdullah al-Faisal, a Jamaica-born Muslim preacher who served four years in a British prison for urging his followers to kill non-Muslims, including Americans, Hindus and Jews. Al-Faisal is the "imam and spiritual advisor" of Revolution Muslim (RM), a New York-based anti-Semitic organization that justifies terrorist attacks and other forms of violence against non-Muslims.


Following his arrest, federal officials searched Shahzad's apartment in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he lived with a roommate. He previously lived with his wife and two children in Shelton, Connecticut, for three years before his family returned to Pakistan.


In a 2006 email to a group of friends, Shahzad expressed anger about American troops in Muslim countries, saying "followers of Islam are attacked and occupied by foreign infidel forces." He also wondered how Muslims should fight back when "rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows? In Palestine, Afghan, Iraq, Chechnya and else where." In the same email, Shahzad warned, "The crusade has already started against Islam and Muslims with cartoons of our beloved Prophet PBUH as War drums."


Shahzad, who was born in Pakistan, gained U.S. citizenship in April 2009. He was previously granted a student visa in 1998 and attended Southern University in Washington, D.C. before transferring to the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, where he received a degree in computer science and engineering. Shahzad, who was granted a workers' visa in 2002, also completed a Masters degree in Business Administration.  


Long Island resident Mohammad Younis, 44, was arrested in September 2010 for illegally operating a hawala system, which transfers money across borders using a network of individuals on an honor code instead of banks with traceable records, between the U.S. and Pakistan. While one of the transfers allegedly facilitated the attempted Times Square bombing, federal authorities have alleged that Younis was unaware of the intended use of the funds.


In addition, three Pakistani men were arrested in Boston and Portland in connection with the investigation. The three men - Aftab Ali Khan, Pir Khan and Mohammad Shafiq Rahman – all married American women and have been arrested by immigration officials. They have not been charged on terrorism offenses.


Pakistani officials have detained one man in Karachi in connection with the case. At least four others have reportedly been detained in Pakistan for questioning. Among those detained in Pakistan are Tauhid Ahmed, who reportedly communicated with Shahzad via email, and Muhammad Rehan, who told investigators that he and Shahzad traveled to Peshawar, Pakistan, for three weeks in July 2009. Rehan was arrested at a mosque reportedly linked to Pakistani-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Pakistani Americans Charged with Terror-Related Offenses

The following is a list of Pakistani Americans arrested, charged or convicted on terror-related offenses in recent years:


  • Raja Lahrasib Khan, a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan, was arrested on March 26, 2010, for providing funds to an alleged terrorist leader in Pakistan and for planning to bomb a U.S. stadium.

  • Syed Haris Ahmed, naturalized American citizen born in Pakistan and raised in Georgia, and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, a U.S. citizen of Bangladeshi descent, were sentenced on December 14, 2009, to 17 and 13 years in prison, respectively, for shooting casing videos of U.S. landmarks for potential terrorist attacks in the Washington, D.C. area.  In July 2005, Ahmed traveled to Pakistan with the intention to study at a religious school, attend a terrorist training camp and join Lashkar-e-Taiba, according to the indictment.

  • Six U.S. citizens and a permanent resident were arrested on July 27, 2009 for engaging in weapons training and conspiring to carry out "violent jihad" overseas.  An eighth suspect, who has been identified as Jude Kenan Muhammad, is reportedly still at large and believed to be in Pakistan.  Muhammad, a 20-year old American citizen from Raleigh who reportedly holds Pakistani and American passports, was reportedly arrested in October 2008 for attempting to travel to restricted tribal areas in Pakistan, but was later released.  

  • Javed Iqbal, a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan, and American citizen Saleh Elahwal were sentenced in June 2009 to nearly six years in prison and 17 months in prison, respectively, for distributing broadcasts of Al Manar, Hezbollah's TV station, and providing material support to Hezbollah.

  • Uzair Paracha, a U.S. permanent resident from Pakistan, was sentenced on July 20, 2006, to 30 years in prison for attempting to help an Al Qaeda operative enter the U.S. in order to carry out an attack on gas stations on behalf of the international terrorist network.

  • A group of nine American citizens and one legal permanent resident, dubbed the "Virginia Jihad Network" by prosecutors, were convicted on terrorism charges related to the Pakistani-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) in Alexandria, Virginia, between 2003 and 2005.  The leader of the group Ali al-Timimi, an American-born Muslim cleric, urged the men to train at LET terrorist camps in preparation to fight against American-led forces in Afghanistan. The men trained with weapons in Virginia and seven of the defendants traveled to Pakistan to train with LET. 

  • Pakistani-born American Mohammed Junaid Babar pleaded guilty in June 2004 to supplying money and materials, including night-vision goggles, sleeping bags and other items, to an Al Qaeda official setting up a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and plotting to assassinate Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf in 2002.

  • Imran Mandhai, a U.S. permanent resident from Pakistan, Shueyb Mossa Jokhan, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Trinidad, plotted to bomb several targets in Southern Florida in 2002, including Jewish-owned businesses in Weston, the Israeli Consulate in Miami, Jewish community centers in Aventura and Broward County, electrical power stations in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, the National Guard Armory in Hollywood and Mount Rushmore.  The men planned to set off a series of explosives that would cause massive power blackouts in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, which they hoped would result in lootings and chaos in Southern Florida

Americans Who Attended Terror Training Camps in Pakistan

Other Americans charged with terror-related offenses have traveled to Pakistan to attended terror training camps, including:


  • Zarein Ahmedzay, an American citizen from Afghanistan, pleaded guilty on April 23, 2010, to planning to detonate homemade explosives on the New York City subway system.  In August 2008, Ahmedzay, Najibullah Zazi, a U.S. permanent resident from Afghanistan, and Adis Medunjanin, an American citizen from Bosnia, traveled to Pakistan, where they received "military-style" training from Al Qaeda, which, according to Attorney General Eric Holder, helped prepare them for "one of the most serious terrorist threats to our country since September 11, 2001."

  • Five American students – Ramy Zamzam, Umer Farooq Chaudhry, Ahmed Minni, Aman Hassan Yemer, and Waqar Hussain Khan – were detained in Pakistan on December 9, 2009, for planning terrorist attacks in Pakistan and on Afghan and U.S. territory.  The students, who allegedly planned to cross into Afghanistan to fight against U.S. troops, traveled to the region to attend terrorist training camps operated by Pakistani-based terrorist groups Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

  • American citizen Ahmad Abousamra and Tarek Mehanna, a Massachusetts man with dual American and Egyptian citizenship, were charged in an indictment handed down on November 5, 2009, with  plotting to attack a U.S. shopping mall and American soldiers in Iraq.  Abousamra, who remains at large, made two trips to Pakistan in 2002 to "obtain training in furtherance of jihad" and to join the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani-based terrorist organization with links to Al Qaeda.  Following Abousamra's failure to join a terrorist group in Pakistan, he and Mehanna began to explore other options, including committing terrorist acts in the U.S.

  • Six U.S. citizens and a permanent resident were arrested on July 27, 2009 for engaging in weapons training and conspiring to carry out "violent jihad" overseas.  Daniel Patrick Boyd, the apparent ringleader of the group, allegedly attended terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992.  An eighth suspect, who has been identified as Jude Kenan Muhammad, is reportedly still at large and believed to be in Pakistan.  

  • Christopher Paul, an American citizen from Ohio, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on February 26, 2009, for planning terrorist attacks in the U.S. and Europe. Paul's alleged ties to Al Qaeda date back to the early 1990s when he traveled to a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and later joined Al Qaeda in Pakistan

  • Bryant Neal Vinas, an American citizen from Long Island, pleaded guilty on January 28, 2009, to providing information about New York City transit systems to Al Qaeda for potential terrorist attacks and to firing rockets at an American military base near the Pakistan and Afghanistan border. Vinas arrived in northwestern Pakistan in the fall of 2007 "with the intention of meeting and joining a jihadist group to fight American soldiers." Soon after arriving in Pakistan, Vinas was accepted into Al Qaeda and received "military-type training" from Al Qaeda in general combat and explosives.  He also reportedly learned how to shoot rockets and assault rifles and how to assemble a suicide bomber's vest. 

  • American citizen Hamid Hayat, who attended Al Qaeda training camps in Pakistan between 2000 and 2004, was sentenced to 24 years in prison in September 2007 for providing material support or resources to terrorists.  Hayat's father, Umer Hayat, a naturalized American citizen, was arrested with Hamid and charged with financing his son's trip to Pakistan and lying to federal agents.

  • Mahmud Faruq Brent, a U.S. citizen who was born in Akron, Ohio and later moved to Gwynn Oak, Maryland, was sentenced to 15 years in July 2007 for conspiring to send aid to LET and attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan in 2002.  Tariq Shah, an American-born Muslim convert who was sentenced in 2007 to 15 years in prison for conspiracy to provide material support to Al Qaeda, trained Brent in martial arts and urban warfare "as part of the conspiracy to provide material support to Lashkar-e-Taiba," according to court documents.

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