'Muslim soldier' admits Times Square bomb plot

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The Independent US

A terrorist linked to al-Qa'ida faces life in prison after admitting trying to use a "weapon of mass destruction" to kill indiscriminately in Times Square.

Faisal Shahzad left a crude car bomb parked in New York, which was powerful enough to have killed dozens of people and to cause substantial damage. But the bomb failed to explode as planned, instead spewing out a plume of smoke. Emergency services made the device safe.

Shahzad remained defiant yesterday when appeared before a court in Manhattan and warned that unless US forces left Muslim lands "We will be attacking the United States and I plead guilty to that".

He said, "I'm going to plead guilty and 100 times more," as he stood before US District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum who asked him if he understood he could spend the rest of his life behind bars. He said he did.

Shahzad, 30, admitted 10 charges, including the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted terrorism transcending national borders. He described himself as "a Muslim soldier" at war with the US.

He revealed that he packed his SUV with three bombs that he had rigged to explode in a huge fireball. He expected the bombs to begin going off after he lit a fuse but he gave up after waiting for up to five minutes. "I was waiting to hear a sound but I didn't hear a sound. So I walked to Grand Central and went home," he said.

When the judge asked him if he had cared that children could have been killed he responded: "One has to understand where I'm coming from. I consider myself ... a Muslim soldier.

"It's a war. I am part of the answer to the US terrorising the Muslim nations and the Muslim people. On behalf of that, I'm revenging the attack. Living in the United States, Americans only care about their people but they don't care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die."

The Pakistani Taliban – Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan – has claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing and the organisation is believed to have paid Shahzad $12,000 before the attack.

Federal authorities believe that the money was channelled through an underground money transfer network known as "hawala". They doubt anyone in the US who handled the money knew what it was for but three men in Massachusetts and Maine suspected of supplying money to the bomber have been detained on immigration charges.

Shahzad has admitted he travelled to Pakistan to receive bomb-making training from Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan for five weeks early this year. The SUV he left in Times Square, close to a Broadway theatre, was packed with propane cylinders, fireworks, petrol cans and other components in what was described as an amateur but potentially lethal device.

Shahzad was born in Pakistan but moved to the United States when he was 18 and last year gained US citizenship. He has a wife and two children living in Pakistan but he was living in Bridgeport, Connecticut, when he carried out the attack.

He was arrested two days after the abortive bombing while he sat on a passenger airliner that was just minutes from taking off from New York's John F Kennedy International Airport for Dubai. When officials moved in to escort him from the plane he reportedly told them: "I was expecting you." US authorities have said he has co-operated with them since the arrest. Sentencing will take place on 5 October.

The bomb was made safe after Duane Jackson, a street vendor, alerted a police officer that a car had been left in Times Square with the keys in the ignition. Mr Jackson returned to the car. He said: "That's when the smoke started coming out and then we heard the little pop pop pop like firecrackers going out and that's when everybody scattered and ran back."