Shahzad got cash at NY shop

Agencies/express May 16, 2010

NEW YORK: A US law enforcement official says Times Square bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad told investigators he received cash at a meeting in a New York doughnut shop some time before the May 1 botched bombing.

Authorities retrieved a surveillance video last week from the Dunkin’ Donuts shop in Ronkonkoma. The Long Island shop is at a commuter rail stop about 50 miles from Manhattan. The official declined to say who Shahzad said he met with, how much money was exchanged or whether the video proved useful. A spokeswoman for Dunkin’ Brands Inc. said Friday that the franchisee turned over surveillance video from the last 30 days to the FBI.

Meanwhile, a Los Angeles Times report said Faisal Shahzad was trained by a militant group in the Mohmand region and received $15,000 to carry out the New York attack. The main suspect in the attempted Times Square bombing received several days of training in Pakistan’s Mohmand region and roughly $15,000 from the Pakistani Taliban to finance the attack, according to US officials briefed on the case. It appears likely that Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani American accused of leaving a Nissan Pathfinder loaded with fertiliser and propane tanks in Times Square on May 1, came up with the idea of the car bomb himself, the LA Times quoted an official as saying.

Shahzad then apparently persuaded the militant group to give him assistance when he travelled to the border region in 2009 or early 2010, they said. “The targeting part of it was his,” said one official briefed on the case, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But the guy was convincing enough to get resources.” Investigators are still attempting to determine what role senior Pakistani Taliban leaders played in the operation. Shahzad has told investigators that he met with Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, before returning to the US to carry out the attempted bombing, two senior officials said.

His claim has been repeated by at least one other source — a suspect arrested in Pakistan with ties to the militant group, the officials said. But US intelligence agencies are still attempting to corroborate that a meeting occurred between Shahzad and Mehsud. “There are a number of people talking about this,” one of the officials said. “All of these comments need to be worked through and verified.” Shahzad has provided interrogators with numerous details about the operation, to the point that some officials are concerned he may be embellishing his account. It was Shahzad, for instance, who first revealed that he had received five days of training in the Mohmand region.

Officials have been able to corroborate that part of Shahzad’s story, one US official said. But investigators are still trying to figure out why he went to Mohmand, which is several hundred miles north of North Waziristan. A former CIA analyst, who helped President Barack Obama formulate his Pakistan- Afghanistan policy, sees “a very serious possibility” that the next mass casualty terrorist attack on the US will be postmarked ‘Pakistan’. “What we’re seeing going on in Pakistan now is a very dangerous phenomenon,” says Bruce Riedel, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, in an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, a Washington think tank.

But vibes coming out of Washington are often contradictory. The US Defence Department, for instance, said al Qaeda’s ability to carry out large-scale complex strikes has “diminished” due to recent aggressive campaigns against it. “...their (al Qaeda and its extremist allies) ability to launch large-scale, complex attacks has clearly been diminished by the fact that we have taken the war as aggressively as we have to them,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 16th, 2010.


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