Times Square bomb suspect abruptly left life in U.S. to return to Pakistan

Three more people are in custody after raids related to the failed bombing May 1 in Times Square. Their arrests follow that of Faisal Shahzad, who is suspected of carrying out the attempt.
By Greg Miller and Mary Beth Sheridan
Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Before he was accused of building a bomb, Faisal Shahzad had disassembled his American life.

In June, he abruptly quit his job as a financial analyst. The three-bedroom, two-plus-bath house he shared with his wife and two children in Shelton, Conn., was put on the market. The young family that neighbors often saw playing outside was suddenly gone.

When Shahzad resurfaced in the United States in February, it appears to have been with a new purpose. He ignored the foreclosure filings of his mortgage lender, and, according to authorities, spent his money on a prepaid cellphone, tanks of propane and a used car.

Many details surrounding Shahzad's alleged attempt to bomb Times Square are hard to reconcile. Why would someone who spent a decade pursuing U.S. citizenship seek to bomb an American landmark and flee the country within a year of being naturalized? How could someone with a degree in computers, who authorities say admitted receiving bomb-making training in Pakistan, assemble such an unsophisticated and unsuccessful device?

But the most elusive question about Shahzad -- a man with no known history of violence or connection to militant Islam -- is the same one that often surfaces in terrorism plots: Why?

"To me, they were regular people," said a former neighbor, Mary Ann Galich, 55, who watched the Shahzad family in the summer host barbecues on the back deck or splash in a kiddie pool.

Shahzad's wife, Huma Mian, often wore a veil and a robe, as did the family's female friends, Galich said. Shahzad wore suits or casual American standards such as khakis.

"They didn't really associate" with others in the neighborhood, Galich said, offering the familiar refrain of those who learn they have been living next to someone accused of plotting violence. "I'm shocked. I'm totally shocked."

In photos on social networking Web sites, Shahzad gazes at the camera with a trimmed beard and tight-lipped smile. In one, he wears a tan blazer and poses in front of a gothic cathedral -- presumably in New York City -- embracing his wife.

Huma Mian wears a scarf and jeans in the photo, her tight curls uncovered. Her whereabouts are unclear now, amid reports that she and the children are in Pakistan. She used to update her Facebook account frequently. Under "activities," she lists the laments of a young mother: "changing diapers, feeding milk, wiping drools, being sleep deprived."

Shahzad, 30, was born in Pakistan. A senior Pakistani official said that he is from Pabbi, the main town of the Nowshera district in the northwest, near Peshawar, a city at the edge of the tribal region where al-Qaeda and other militant groups now hide.

At the family house in the village of Mohib Banda, two men identified themselves Tuesday as Shahzad's cousins and said that his father, a retired vice air marshal named Bahar ul-Haq, now lives in Peshawar.

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