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Pakistan native arrested in Times Square bomb case
The growing evidence of terrorist connections in the Times Square case prompted the New York-based terrorism task force to take the lead in the investigation, which had been overseen by the New York Police Department, a senior U.S. law enforcement official said. That indicates that the failed bombing is being investigated as a terrorist incident with international connections, the official said.
FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko of the New York field office said in a statement Monday night that the "FBI JTTF [Joint Terrorism Task Force] and NYPD are working this case jointly and have been since the beginning." The New York police force, known for its expertise in terrorism matters, is represented on the task force and will remain heavily involved in the probe, officials said.
In the rear of the SUV, police found a makeshift bomb made up of three tanks of propane similar to those used in backyard barbecues; two jugs of gasoline; dozens of M-88 firecrackers, which are legal for purchase in some states; and a metal gun case holding 100 pounds of fertilizer that police said was incapable of exploding.
Some officials cautioned that the international focus did not mean that other possibilities, such as domestic terrorism or an individual acting alone, were being ruled out. Nor did it mean, they said, that international ties automatically constituted a well-formed plot.
One federal law enforcement official, for example, said international communications don't necessarily "get you to an international plot, a multi-organizational plot."
"We're just not there," the official said.
The nature of the possible international connection also remained murky.
The Pakistani Taliban had asserted responsibility for the attempted bombing in a video posted on YouTube, but New York police and federal investigators have said no evidence had surfaced linking the group to the bomb.
On Sunday night, a second video was posted by apparent representatives of the Taliban, showing the group's commander, Hakimullah Mehsud, promising to launch attacks in the United States.
Mehsud, who U.S. and Pakistani authorities initially believed was killed in a January drone strike, was recorded saying, "The time is very near when our fedayeen will attack the American states in their major cities . . . in some days or a month's time."
The video is marked with the logo of the Pakistani Taliban's official media wing, Umar Studios, and appears to be credible, according to Evan F. Kohlmann, a terrorism consultant at Flashpoint Partners.
Staff writers Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.