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Suspected Times Square bomber arrested while attempting to fly out of U.S.

timessquare050410_optBY ALICIA CRUZ
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

Authorities say they have arrested a man they believe is responsible for the foiled Times Square bombing on May 1. Suspect Faisal Shahzad, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent was taken into custody as he tried to board a flight to Dubai at John F. Kennedy airport.

A source told CBS News that although the vehicles identification number had been removed, forensic evidence uncovered from the SUV led investigators to Shahzad, who's name was familiar to counter terrorism investigators.

Initially Shahzad was simply a person of interest until investigators tracked the original owner of the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder.

The alleged buyer, a man believed to be of Pakistani descent, was found to have recently traveled to Pakistan. The car's last registered owner was questioned Sunday by investigators, and said he sold the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder to a man he did not know three weeks ago.

"The discovery of the VIN on the engine block was pivotal in that it led to identifying the registered owner," New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne told the Washington Post. "It continues to pay dividends."

Investigators also tracked the license plates to a used auto parts shop in Stratford, Conn., where they discovered the plates were connected to a different vehicle.

Next, they spoke to the owner of an auto sales shop in nearby Bridgeport because a sticker on the Pathfinder indicated the SUV had been sold by his dealership. Owner Tom Manis said there was no match between the identification number the officers showed him and any vehicle he sold.

The officials say the man is a Connecticut resident who paid cash three weeks ago for the SUV, which was rigged with a crude propane-and-gasoline bomb.

The NYPD along with FBI agents spent hours examining hundreds of hours of video from around the Times Square area. The first man who appeared in the surveillance videos, seen stripping of a t-shirt near the vehicle was cleared as a suspect once police honed in on the buyer of the car.

Law enforcement continues to stress that no definitive link to al-Qaeda or any terrorist group has been found at this time, but the White House today called the attempted attack a "clear act of terrorism."

"I think anybody that has the type of material that they had in a car in Times Square, I would say that that was intended to terrorize, absolutely," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told the Washington Post.

Police have not said if Shahzad has ties to any known terrorist groups or al-Qaeda although The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the failed bomb attempt in three videos that surfaced after the discovery of the bomb. Officials say police have no evidence to support the Pakistani Taliban claims and Shahzad's motive remains a mystery.

If the bomb, which officials say was rigged with "cheap-looking" alarm clocks, had detonated, it would have produced enough shrapnel to kill pedestrians and knock out windows in nearby buildings.

The SUV was found parked on the street near Viacom Inc., offices. Viacom owns Comedy Central, which recently aired an episode of the animated show "South Park" that the Revolution Muslim group complained insulted the Prophet Muhammad by depicting him in a bear costume.

The street, littered with theatres and restaurants, would have been filled with thousands of people on that warm Saturday night as it was International Workers Day, a traditional date for political demonstrations, and thousands more who were rallying for immigration reform.

The 6:28 p.m. evacuation of Times Square shut the city down for 10 hours. The observant street vendor, who alerted police to the suspicious looking SUV, may have saved the lives of thousands of New Yorkers and tourists.

 

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