The Times Square bomber was arrested at the last minute as his flight out of America taxied to the runway, police revealed today.
Pakistan-born US citizen Faisal Shahzad had booked his seat on the Dubai-bound plane as he travelled to New York’s Kennedy airport and paid in cash.
Today as he waited to make his first appearance in court he told investigators he was acting alone when he parked a makeshift car bomb in the heart of a packed Manhattan on Saturday evening.
But President Barack Obama said he was being checked for possible connection to terrorist groups.
Meanwhile Pakistan intelligence officials said they had arrested a friend of Shahzad Karachi in Karachi in connection with the bombing attempt.
Shahzad was removed from the Emirates flight after air traffic control ordered it to return shortly before take-off yesterday. He had been due to catch a Pakistan-bound flight from Dubai.
Shahzad became a naturalised US citizen last year shortly before travelling to Pakistan, where he has a wife, a security source said.
He was not known to US intelligence before the Times Square incident.
Speaking hours after the arrest, Mr Obama said “justice will be done” in the incident.
The president said “hundreds of lives” may have been saved through quick action by ordinary citizens and local, state and federal authorities.
“We know that the aim of those who try to carry out” attacks like the one last weekend is to force Americans to live in fear, Mr Obama said.
“As Americans and as a nation, we will not be terrorised. We will not cower in fear. We will not be intimidated.”
Meanwhile police and the FBI searched Shahzad’s home in a working-class district of multi-family homes in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Court records showed he defaulted on a 200,000 dollar mortgage the house and was sued by the loan company last September to foreclose on him. The records showed Shahzad took out the mortgage in 2004, and he co-owned the home with a woman named Huma Mian.
Shahzad bought the car used in the attempted attack, a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder, from a Connecticut man about three weeks ago and paid cash.
The vehicle identification number had been removed from the dashboard, but it was stamped on the engine, and investigators used it to find the previous owner, who told them he had sold it to a stranger.
The explosive device inside it had cheap-looking alarm clocks connected to a 1lb can filled with fireworks, which were apparently intended to detonate petrol cans and set propane tanks on fire in a chain reaction “to cause mayhem, to create casualties,” police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
A metal rifle cabinet placed in the car’s cargo area was packed with fertiliser, but NYPD bomb experts believe it was not a type volatile enough to explode like the ammonium nitrate grade fertiliser used in previous terrorist bombings.
Police said the bomb could have produced “a significant fireball” and sprayed shrapnel with enough force to kill pedestrians and knock out windows.
A passer-by alerted police to the car, which was smoking. Times Square, clogged with tourists on a warm evening, was shut down for 10 hours. A bomb squad dismantled the explosive device, and no one was hurt.
US Attorney General Eric Holder suggested the hunt was still on for others involved in the attempted bombing, saying: We “will not rest until we have brought everyone responsible to justice.”
He said Americans should remain vigilant. “It’s clear that the intent behind this terrorist act was to kill Americans.”
The Pakistani Taliban appeared to claim responsibility in videos that surfaced after the weekend scare, monitoring groups said, but police had no evidence to support the claims.
The car was parked near offices of Viacom, which owns Comedy Central. The network recently aired an episode of the animated show “South Park” that the group Revolution Muslim had complained insulted the Prophet Mohammed by depicting him in a bear costume.
The bombing attempt was on May 1, International Workers Day, a traditional date for political demonstrations, and thousands of people had rallied for immigration reform that day in New York.
More than a dozen people with American citizenship or residency, like Shahzad, have been accused in the past two years of supporting or carrying out terrorism attempts on US soil, cases that illustrate the threat of violent extremism from within the US.
Attorney General Eric Holder said today in Washington that Shahzad admitted his role in the nearly catastrophic attack. He said Shahzad will face terrorism and weapons of mass destruction charges and was co-operating with investigators.
“Based on what we know so far, it is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country,” Mr Holder said.
Other law enforcement officials familiar with the inquiry say investigators plan to go through Shahzad’s citizenship application line by line to see if he lied about anything. He became a citizen in Hartford, Connecticut.
Deputy FBI director John Pistole said the alleged Times Square bomber was placed on the US No Fly list on Monday, hours before he was arrested.
This was a key step to stop the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, from fleeing the country.
Customs and Border Protection officials at the airport ordered the flight be stopped before take-off. They were able to arrest Shahzad on the plane and turned him over to the FBI.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declined to say how Shahzad was able to board the flight if he was on the No Fly list.