Accused NY bomber from respectable background
* Case could point to new kind of threat for United
* Accused bomber is son of retired air vice marshal
* Family 'on radar', says interior minister (Adds quotes, immigration figures and details on detentions)
By Zeeshan Haider
MOHIB BANDA, Pakistan, May 5 (Reuters) - Like some notorious al Qaeda figures, the Pakistani-American charged in connection with the botched bomb in New York's Times Square comes from a respectable background that provides no hints of radicalism.
Faisal Shahzad, 30, who was born in Pakistan and became a U.S. citizen last year, is accused of trying to kill and maim people with a car bomb in the heart of Manhattan on Saturday night. Charged with five terrorism-related counts, he faces life in prison if convicted.
U.S. police said he had admitted training in a Taliban and al Qaeda stronghold in Pakistan. On the surface, he bears no resemblance to many impoverished Pakistani men lured by promises of holy war and martyrdom to become Taliban footsoldiers.
For full coverage of Pakistan, click on [ID:nAFPAK]
Shahzad, a former financial analyst who worked in the U.S. state of Connecticut, is the son of a retired air vice marshal, affording him a special status in Pakistan, where the military is the most powerful and influential institution.
He is married with two children, New York police said. He had a job in commercial hub Karachi some time ago and recently went to the area with his family for a wedding, local media reported.
The case points to what could be a new threat to U.S. security: Pakistani immigrants attracted to militancy who move back and forth between the two countries, a phenomenon with which British authorities have had to contend.
Suicide bomb attacks in London by four British Islamists on July 7, 2005, killed 52 people and wounded about 700.
Shahzad fits the profile of many Pakistanis in the United States: educated and with a higher income than the population as a whole, and often in professional or management jobs.
According to U.S. Census data from 2005 -- the most recent -- there were an estimated 210,410 Pakistanis in the United States. Nearly 15,000 Pakistanis got U.S. immigrant visas last year, according to the U.S. embassy.
"THIS IS OUR SON"
Shahzad's father, Bahar-ul-Haq, hurriedly vacated the family home in Peshawar late on Tuesday to avoid attention, according to Pakistan's the News newspaper. Witnesses said he packed some belongings in a vehicle and left with family members, it said.
Shahzad's family is from the farming village of Mohib Banda, home to 5,000 people, in the Pabbi district. A tiny, dusty road snakes through fields of wheat, maize and rice crops to the village, 125 km (75 miles) northwest of Islamabad.
Residents expressed disbelief at Shahzad's arrest.
"This is our son," retired school teacher Nazirullah Khan told Reuters by telephone. "I recognised him. Last time when I met him, he didn't have a beard. I attended his wedding."
New York court documents said Shahzad returned to the United States on Feb. 3 on a one-way ticket from U.S. ally Pakistan, where he had spent the last five months visiting his parents.
The United States and Pakistan will now try to study Shahzad's path to New York and which group may have influenced him, information they hope will help prevent future attacks.
Security officials say Shahzad's parents resided in Peshawar, the city hit hardest by Pakistani Taliban suicide bombings. They said he also has a Karachi residency card.
A senior security official said he may have links through a friend and a mosque to the banned Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group, which is dedicated to fighting Indian forces in Kashmir and is designated a terrorist organisation by the United States.
Members of Shahzad's extended family, including his father-in-law, have also been detained, according to CNN.
Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Shahzad's family "are on our radar". "He is from an educated family. We are looking into how he got radicalised," Malik told Reuters.
There are plenty of examples of people with a respectable past who turned to jihad -- al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden hails from Saudi Arabia's elite, his Egyptian deputy Ayman al-Zawahri was born into an upper-class family of doctors and scholars in an upscale Cairo neighbourhood. Mohammed Atta, leader of the 9/11 hijackers, enrolled as a graduate student in Germany.
Aside from struggling against a Taliban insurgency, Pakistan also faces threats from foreign would-be fighters trying to link up with Pakistani militants through the Internet.
In March, a Pakistani court formally charged five young Americans of plotting terrorism in the country.
Pakistan has in the past nurtured militant groups to fight in Indian-controlled Kashmir and mujahideen to fight Soviet occupation troops in Afghanistan.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks Pakistan, under enormous American pressure, joined the U.S. war on terror, although questions have arisen about its level of commitment.
(Writing by Michael Georgy; Additional reporting by Faisal Aziz, Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Paul Tait)