Published September 29, 2010
| Associated Press
NEW YORK – The man who planted a car bomb in Times Square boasted that he thought it would kill at least 40 people and that he planned to detonate a second bomb two weeks after the first, prosecutors said Wednesday. They quoted the former financial analyst in a video where he said he'd hoped "to join my brothers in jihad" ever since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Faisal Shahzad should get life in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 5, prosecutors said in a filing, arguing that he "had every intention of delivering a powerful and terrorizing strike to the heart of New York City."
The government noted that Shahzad showed no remorse when he pleaded guilty on June 21 after confessing to investigators.
In fact, prosecutors wrote, "he spoke with pride about what he and his coconspirators had done."
Included in the government submission to the sentencing judge in U.S. District Court in Manhattan was a 40-minute video in which Shahzad fires a machine gun in what appears to be the mountains of Pakistan as he announces that he has met members of the Pakistan Taliban and has decided "we are going to raise an attack inside America."
Prosecutors also included a video of the government's explosion of a bomb the size of Shahzad's, saying the results last June in a Pennsylvania field show the attack would have been "devastating to the surrounding area" had it succeeded.
Through most of the first video, Shahzad is seated and quoting from the Quran but makes his intentions clear toward the end when he states: "I have been trying to join my brothers in jihad ever since 9/11 happened. I am planning to wage an attack inside America," prosecutors said.
Shahzad was arrested two days after his May 1 bomb attempt in tourist-filled Times Square, where the explosives he had packed into the back of a sports utility vehicle sputtered and failed to detonate.
Prosecutors said he tried to ignite the bomb before he abandoned the vehicle and that he was "prepared to conduct additional attacks until he was captured or killed." The government did not list other locations that Shahzad might have chosen as targets.
The second video shows an explosion shot from various angles, sometimes in slow motion. It caused a giant fireball that ripped apart the mock car bomb and five other vehicles positioned around it to simulate traffic. It also sent debris flying into a nearby pond.
A lawyer for Shahzad did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.
Shahzad chose a warm Saturday evening to carry out his attack in a part of Times Square he believed would be most crowded based on streaming video of the world-famous tourist magnet that he'd looked at online, prosecutors said.
He lit the fuse of his bomb, then left the vehicle to head to Grand Central terminal and, from there, his Connecticut home, pausing along the way to listen for the explosion that never came, the filing said.
A street vendor spotted smoke coming from the SUV and alerted police, who quickly cleared the area. The bomb attempt set off an intense investigation that culminated two days later with investigators plucking Shahzad off a Dubai-bound plane at a New York airport.
The government made clear that much of its information came from Shahzad, who waived his right not to incriminate himself.
Prosecutors quoted extensively from the video that they said was posted online by the Pakistan Taliban on July 14, titled "A brave effort by Faisal Shahzad to attack United States in its own Land."
Prosecutors said the video, which includes publicly released photographs taken in Times Square following the attempted bombing, includes a segment in which Shahzad explains that "jihad is one of the pillars upon which Islam stands" and later advises that "Jews and Christians have to accept Islam as a religion and if you don't do that, then you are bound to go in hellfire."
The Pakistan-born Shahzad, 30, pleaded guilty to 10 terrorism and weapons counts, some of which carry mandatory life sentences.
"I want to plead guilty and I'm going to plead guilty a hundred times forward," he said.
He defiantly called himself a Muslim soldier at the proceeding and warned that unless the U.S. leaves Muslim lands alone, "we will be attacking U.S., and I plead guilty to that."
He admitted that the Pakistan Taliban provided him with more than $15,000 and five days of explosives training late last year and early this year, months after he became a U.S. citizen.
Then, he said, he built his fertilizer-fueled bomb packed in a gun cabinet, with a set of propane tanks and gas canisters rigged with fireworks to explode into a fireball.
He also revealed that he was carrying a folding assault rifle, which he said was for self-defense. Prosecutors said in their court document that Shahzad had practiced firing the gun at a range in Connecticut "to ensure he was fully prepared if confronted by law enforcement authorities."
Prosecutors noted the irony of Shahzad's plans to attack the United States, where he'd succeeded academically and professionally over the past decade and created a life with his wife and two young children that was "full of promise."
They said that much of his personal success was built on opportunities the U.S. had provided, including the chance to earn a college degree while on a student visa and permission to remain in the country on a working visa sponsored by a U.S. company.
He lived comfortably with his family in Connecticut until he chose "a nihilistic path that celebrated conflict and death cloaked in the rhetoric of a distorted interpretation of Islam," prosecutors said.
They added: "The premeditated attempt to kill and maim scores of unsuspecting innocent men, women and children with a homemade bomb can only be described as utterly reprehensible."