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Probe in failed Times Square attack focusing on Pakistani Taliban
The Times Square incident was the latest in a series of attempted terrorist attacks against the United States over the past year. As with some other suspects, it was difficult to reconcile the grim portrait of Shahzad painted by authorities with the accounts of those who know him. Shahzad's neighbors described him as a pleasant family man who enjoyed taking care of his yard and playing with his two daughters.
U.S. investigators found Shahzad after a two-day investigation combining old-fashioned shoe-leather detective work, sophisticated searches through telephone and electronic records, and the latest linkups among federal immigration, travel and border databases.
Authorities said they had identified Shahzad by Sunday night as " "a person that we would like to talk to," FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole said. Tracing the origins of the Pathfinder was a crucial part of the probe. The car's vehicle identification number had been removed from a dashboard plate. But authorities were able to find the seller by using a decal on the tailgate to trace the car to a Connecticut used-car dealer, who early Sunday gave them sales records on two cars matching the Pathfinder's description.
Authorities then found the vehicle's registered owner in Connecticut. Police officials said that was a major break in the case. Another key step was finding an e-mail from Shahzad to the car's seller. Although Shahzad used a fake name, he included a number from a disposable cellphone, which investigators used to determine his identity.
Investigators served a search warrant Tuesday at Shahzad's home and visited a gun shop in Shelton where he bought a 9mm Kel-Tec rifle in March. Court documents said investigators found an unspecified gun in a car that Shahzad left at the airport.
The probe also extended to Pakistan, where officials said FBI agents were expected to push their Pakistani counterparts for access to intelligence about the Pakistani Taliban and its possible involvement in the plot. Pakistani officials pledged cooperation.
A Pakistani intelligence official said Tuesday that authorities had arrested at least two people in the southern port city of Karachi in connection with the Times Square plot. But a U.S. law enforcement official said the arrest was "not at our behest."
The Pakistani Taliban has waged a campaign of bombings and assassinations against the Pakistani government in recent years. Until now, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officers didn't think the group had the reach necessary to execute attacks outside its home region, and it has traditionally shied away from the sort of global jihad espoused by al-Qaeda.
But the group's ties with al-Qaeda and other foreign militants have expanded of late, and so have its ambitions. In a video issued this week, Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud promised more strikes against the United States, and said that suicide bombers had infiltrated American cities.