Faisal Shahzad

Faisal Shahzad is a Pakistani-born naturalized U.S. citizen who in May 2010 attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, Manhattan. According to the U.S. government, Shahzad had previously trained alongside the Pakistani Taliban, or the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), in Pakistan.“Faisal Shahzad Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to Life in Prison for Attempted Car Bombing in Times Square,” United States Attorney Southern District of New York, October 5, 2010, 2. Following the May 2010 attack, Shahzad told investigators that he had been inspired by the online sermons of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.Shane, Scott and Mark Mazzetti, “Times Sq. Bomb Suspect Is Linked to Militant Cleric,” New York Times, May 6, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/07/world/middleeast/07awlaki-.html.

Shahzad was born in Pakistan and moved to the United States in 1998, gaining U.S. citizenship in May 2009.Adams, Lorraine and Ayesha Nasir, “Inside the mind of the Times Square bomber,” Guardian (London), September 18, 2010, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/sep/19/times-square-bomber;
“Profile: Faisal Shahzad,” BBC News, October 5, 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11475789.
One month later, Shahzad returned to Pakistan. In December 2009, he began training with TTP militants in Waziristan, Pakistan. Shahzad lived and trained alongside TTP militants for approximately two months, five days of which he spent learning to build explosives.Adams, Lorraine and Ayesha Nasir, “Inside the mind of the Times Square bomber,” Guardian (London), September 18, 2010, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/sep/19/times-square-bomber.

Shahzad returned to the United States in February of 2010 after living and training with the TTP for two months. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between February and April of 2010, Shahzad received two separate payments totaling $12,000 from the TTP via the informal hawala system. Hawala—an ancient payment system with Middle Eastern and South Asian roots—allows people to transfer money across the world by way of brokers, or hawaladar, who collect and pay money out of their own funds before balancing their accounts with one another. Shahzad used the $12,000 to purchase materials for the attack, including bomb materials and a car.“Faisal Shahzad Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to Life in Prison for Attempted Car Bombing in Times Square,” United States Attorney Southern District of New York, October 5, 2010, 1-2; West, Ben and Scott Stewart, “Uncomfortable Truths and the Times Square Attack,” Stratfor, May 6, 2010, https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20100505_uncomfortable_truths_times_square_attack;
Benjamin Weiser, “Charges of Getting Cash to Failed Times Sq. Bomber,” New York Times, September 15, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/16/nyregion/16shahzad.html?rref=collection%252Ftimestopic%252FTimes%2520Square%2520Bomb%2520Attempt%2520(May%25201%252C%25202010)&_r=0;
Mohammed El-Qorchi, “The Hawala System,” Global Development Research Center, December 2002, http://www.gdrc.org/icm/hawala.html.

On the evening of May 1, 2010, Shahzad attempted to detonate three bombs—built from fertilizer, gasoline, and a gun safe—in his newly purchased car.Ben West and Scott Stewart, “Uncomfortable Truths and the Times Square Attack,” Stratfor, May 6, 2010, https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20100505_uncomfortable_truths_times_square_attack. Shahzad parked in Times Square near 45th Street and Seventh Avenue, and walked a few blocks away to wait for the explosion. However, Shahzad had mistakenly set the timer—which ran on military time—to 07:00 rather than 19:00. When no explosion occurred, Shahzad returned to his home in Connecticut.Adams, Lorraine and Ayesha Nasir, “Inside the mind of the Times Square bomber,” Guardian (London), September 18, 2010, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/sep/19/times-square-bomber. Police disarmed the car bomb after a street vendor reported seeing smoke rising from the back vents.Al Baker, William K. Rashbaum, “Police Find Car Bomb in Times Square,” New York Times, May 1, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/nyregion/02timessquare.html.

Two days after the attack, FBI agents arrested Shahzad at New York’s John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport after he boarded a flight to Dubai.“Times Square suspect had explosives training, documents say,” CNN, May 5, 2010, http://edition.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/05/04/new.york.car.bomb/index.html. Shahzad told investigators that he had been inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, having listened to his lectures online. According to an unnamed U.S. official, “[Shahzad] listened to [Awlaki], and he did it,” referring to the attempted Times Square attack.Shane, Scott and Mark Mazzetti, “Times Sq. Bomb Suspect Is Linked to Militant Cleric,” New York Times, May 6, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/07/world/middleeast/07awlaki-.html.

Following the attack, both AQAP and the TTP featured Shahzad in their propaganda material. AQAP’s English-language magazine Inspire—released in June 2010—quoted an email from Shahzad in which he condemned peaceful protests in favor of jihad.Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti, “Times Sq. Bomb Suspect Is Linked to Militant Cleric,” New York Times, May 6, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/07/world/middleeast/07awlaki-.html;
“Hear the World… A collection of quotes from friend and foe,” Inspire, June 2010, Issue 1, https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/aqap-inspire-magazine-volume-1-uncorrupted.pdf.
Shahzad was further featured in a TTP propaganda video released in July 2010. The video was filmed at some point between late 2009 and early 2010 while Shahzad lived alongside the TPP in Pakistan. In the video, Shahzad urged Muslims to “fight against the enemy of Islam,” and to carry out attacks on the United States. The video also featured clips of Western media coverage of the Times Square attack.“United States v. Faisal Shahzad: Government’s Memorandum in Connection with the Sentencing of Faisal Shahzad,” United States District Court Southern District of New York, September 29, 2010, 5-7.

In October 2010, Shahzad was charged on 10 counts including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to commit an act of international terrorism. Shahzad pled guilty to all 10 charges on June 21, 2010. Prosecutors sentenced Shahzad to life in prison on October 5, 2010.Michael Wilson, “Shahzad Gets Life Term for Times Square Bombing Attempt,” New York Times, October 5, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/06/nyregion/06shahzad.html?_r=1;
“Faisal Shahzad Pleads Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court to 10 Federal Crimes Arising from Attempted Car Bombing in Times Square,” Department of Justice: Office of Public Affairs, June 21, 2010, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/faisal-shahzad-pleads-guilty-manhattan-federal-court-10-federal-crimes-arising-attempted-car;
“Faisal Shahzad Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to Life in Prison for Attempted Car Bombing in Times Square,” United States Attorney Southern District of New York, October 5, 2010, 1.

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On September 17, 2019, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated outside a Presidential rally in Charikar, Afghanistan, killing at least 26 people and injuring another 30. Later, a suicide bomber detonated outside the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, killing 22 and wounding 38 others. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks. 

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