Sources: Shahzad Had Contact With Awlaki, Taliban Chief, and Mumbai Massacre Mastermind

Faisal Shahzad Said To Have Linked Up With Taliban Through Internet, But Already High-Placed Contacts


May 6, 2010 —

Accused Times Square Bomber Faisal Shahzad linked up with the Pakistani Taliban through the internet, ABC News has been told by law enforcement and intelligence sources close to the investigation. Once the Taliban identified him as more valuable in the U.S. than in Pakistan, they trained him to return to execute his bomb attack.

But according to these sources, Shahzad also had a web of jihadist contacts that included big names tied to terror attacks in the U.S. and abroad, including the figure who has emerged as a central figure in many recent domestic terror attempts - radical American-born Muslim cleric Anwar Awlaki.

Besides Awlaki, sources say Shahzad was also linked to a key figure in the Pakistani Taliban, its Emir Beitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a drone missile strike in 2009. The Mehsuds had been family friends of Shahzad, who is the son of a former high-ranking Pakistani military officer.

Sources told ABC News that Shahzad was childhood friends with one of the alleged masterminds of the Mumbai massacre of 2008, in which more than 170 people died.

Shahzad is also said to be linked to a man named Muhammed Rehan, whom Pakistani authorities reportedly have in custody. Sources said Rehan helped Shahzad travel to Peshawar and then to Waziristan and made introductions to the Taliban.

According to a person briefed on the FBI interrogation, Shahzad has told federal agents that he was angry at the CIA missile strikes carried out in Pakistan and suffered a personal crisis in his life. He has reportedly said he carried out the attempted bombing because he was under duress and that he feared for his family's safety if he didn't fulfill the mission.

Shahzad has admitted to receiving bomb-making training and to loading a car with explosives and driving it into Times Square, say U.S. authorities, and is providing valuable information that is helping officials round up possible accomplices.

Failed Times Square Car Bomb Attempt

Seven men have been arrested in Pakistan in connection with the failed car bombing, including two in Karachi and five in Punjab Province. Shahzad's faither-in-law has also been detained, and Shahzad's father, wife and children may be in protective custody.

Shahzad, whose father was a high-ranking officer in the Pakistani Air Force, moved to the United States in 1998. Married with two daughters, he worked as a financial analyst and lived in Connecticut.

In 2009, Shahzad's life began unraveling. He had been working as a junior financial analyst in the Stamford, Connecticut office of the Affinion Group, an international marketing firm, But in May he left his job, abandoned his $200,000 home to foreclosure and returned to Pakistan.

Federal officials alleged that while in Pakistan he learned bomb-making with the Taliban and received money for his plot.

Shahzad returned to the U.S. in February 2010.

After the attempted Times Square bombing, Shahzad, who had been the subject of a huge manhunt, almost made it out of the country on a Emirates flight to Dubai, with a planned connection onward to Pakistan, according to officials.

Authorities said that despite the manhunt, his passport had not been flagged and he was able to buy a ticket with cash and clear airport security.

Customs and Border Protection agents working at the super-secret National Targeting Center discovered that Shahzad, who was by this point was on a no-fly list, had purchased a ticket and was on a flight manifest for a plane headed to Dubai, federal officials told ABC News. The agents contacted their CBP counterparts at JFK who then rushed to the plane and alerted the crew to their high-priority passenger.

The crew paged Shahzad via the plane's intercom to come to the front of the plane. Remarkably, Shahzad calmly complied, got up, retrieved his bag and ambled to the front of the plane. He was detained just outside the plane's doors.

CBP agents took Shahzad to a holding cell where the suspected terrorist informed them he had a car in an airport parking lot with a gun inside. Authorities surrounded the car, called in bomb sniffing dogs and cleared the scene.

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