Times Square bombing suspect charged

New York, May 5 (ANI): The Pakistani-American man arrested in the failed Times Square car bombing has been charged after he admitted to his role in the attempted attack and said he received explosives training in Pakistan, the authorities said Tuesday.

Faisal Shahzad, 30, was arrested as he tried to flee the country in a Dubai-bound jet late Monday.

Hours later, there were reports that seven or eight people had been arrested in Pakistan, as officials in both countries sought to determine the origins and scope of the plot.

According to the New York Times, Shahzad was charged on Tuesday with several terrorism-related crimes.

American intelligence officials said that while any ties Shahzad had to international terrorist groups remained murky, investigators were strongly looking at possible links to the Pakistani Taliban in the attempted attack on Saturday.

If the role is confirmed, it would be the group’s first effort to attack the United States and the first sign of the group’s ability to strike targets beyond Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Shahzad is a naturalized United States citizen from Pakistan who lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

He was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and other federal charges, several related to explosives. He was interrogated without initially being read his Miranda rights under a public safety exception, and he provided what the Federal Bureau of Investigation called “valuable intelligence and evidence.”

He continued talking after being read his rights, the F.B.I. said.

The authorities charged him as a civilian, but he did not appear in court and no hearing has been scheduled. (ANI)

US undermined British investigation into al-Qaeda airline bomb plot

London, Sep. 8 (ANI): British police were forced to cut short their investigation into the 2006 al-Qaeda airline bomb plot after the US pressurised Pakistan to arrest the suspected mastermind Rashid Rauf.

According to The Telegraph, American intelligence officials, who were briefed about the police investigation, became frustrated at British reluctance to arrest the suspects.

They urged the Pakistanis to swoop for Rauf to force the hand of the Metropolitan Police, who wanted more time to gather evidence.

“It probably was the case that something happened between the Americans and Pakistani authorities that precipitated the arrest,” former Met Police assistant commissioner Andy Hayman told BBC.

As a result the police were forced to arrest all the British-based suspects straight away, rather than in co-ordinated night time raids as had been planned.

“To go right from a standing start was a difficult challenge in itself. You would ideally want to be in much more control,” he added.

Three British Muslims were yesterday convicted of planning a series of co-ordinated bomb attacks on airlines flying from the UK to US, which could have killed up to 10,000 people.

According to the paper, Abdullah Ahmed, Tanvir Hussain and Assad Sarwar plotted to cause mass murder by detonating home-made liquid explosives on board at least seven passenger flights bound for the US and Canada.

The plot had the potential to be three times as deadly as the 9/11 attacks of 2001.

The men made suicide videos, and they were bugged by MI5, which revealed how they discussed details of the plot. They were also filmed in their bomb factory in east London where they had practised making bombs from household goods, including soft drink bottles, batteries and disposable cameras.

All three men convicted on Monday had been found guilty at an earlier trial last year of conspiracy to murder, but prosecutors said it was vital to secure a conviction on another charge of conspiring to blow up the aircraft in order to prove that the threat to air traffic was genuine.

Their arrests in 2006 resulted in immediate worldwide restrictions on passengers carrying liquids in their hand luggage.

A ban on containers larger than 100ml is still in place.

When the men were arrested, one of the plotters, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, had a computer memory stick in his pocket which highlighted seven flights from London to six cities in the US and Canada, each carrying between 241 and 286 passengers and crew.

The flights all departed within 2 hours and 35 minutes of each other, to Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco, Washington and New York and police believed there would have been no chance of stopping the attacks once all the aircraft were in the air.

Investigators also believed that the men were considering an even larger attack after they were bugged discussing plans for as many as 18 suicide bombers, which could have led to 5,000 deaths in the air and as many again on the ground.

The case has also led to a review of visa restrictions on Britons travelling to the US, and yesterday’s convictions, which came during the diplomatic row over the release of the Lockerbie bomber, focused yet more attention in the US on how Britain deals with terrorists.

MI5 believed the plotters were linked to the highest levels of al-Qaeda through a British man called Rashid Rauf, who was also involved in the build-up to the attacks of July 7 and July 21 2005.

The Crown Prosecution Service must now decide whether those men, who were also tried last year, should face a third trial.(ANI)

Foreign al Qaeda leaders using turmoil to strengthen Pak militant groups

Washington, May 11 (ANI): American and Pakistani intelligence officials have said that foreign operatives of al Qaeda, who had focused on plotting attacks against the West, are capitalising on the turmoil to sow chaos in the country and strengthen the hand of the militant Islamist groups there, a leading US based daily has reported.

The New York Times reports that indication came on April 19, when a truck parked inside a Qaeda compound in South Waziristan erupted in a fireball when a C.I.A. missile struck it.

American intelligence officials say that the truck had been loaded with high explosives, apparently to be used as a bomb, which would have been more devastating than the suicide bombing that killed more than 50 people at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

Al Qaeda’s leaders are a predominantly Arab group of Egyptians, Saudis and Yemenis, as well as other nationalities like Uzbeks and for years they have nurtured ties to Pakistani militant groups like the Taliban operating in the mountains of Pakistan.

The foreign operatives have set their sights on targets bigger than those selected by the local militant groups, aiming for spectacular attacks against the West, but they may see new opportunity in the recent violence.

Intelligence officials say the Taliban advances in Swat and Buner, which are closer to Islamabad than to the tribal areas, have already helped al Qaeda in its recruiting efforts.

The officials say the group’s recruiting campaign is currently aimed at young fighters across the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia who are less inclined to plan and carry out far-reaching global attacks and who have focused their energies on more immediate targets, the NYT reports.

“They smell blood, and they are intoxicated by the idea of a jihadist takeover in Pakistan,” said Bruce O. Riedel, a former analyst for the CIA, who recently led the Obama Administration’s policy review of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

American government officials and terrorism experts said that Al Qaeda’s increasing focus on a local strategy was partly born from necessity, as the CIA’s intensifying airstrikes have reduced the group’s ability to hit targets in the West.

The United States has conducted 16 drone strikes so far this year, according to American officials, compared with 36 strikes in all of 2008.

According to a Pakistani intelligence assessment provided, al Qaeda has adapted to the deaths of its leaders by shifting “to conduct decentralized operations under small but well-organized regional groups” within Pakistan and Afghanistan.

At the same time, the group has intensified its recruiting, to replace its airstrike casualties.

One of Al Qaeda’s main goals in Pakistan, the assessment said, was to “stage major terrorist attacks to create a feeling of insecurity, embarrass the government and retard economic development and political progress,” the paper says. (ANI)