WASHINGTON, May 4 (Reuters) - Fifty-three hours and 20 minutes elapsed between the time Faisal Shahzad allegedly parked a vehicle carrying a bomb in New York’s Times Square on Saturday and the time of his arrest.
Following are the key breaks that enabled U.S. authorities to track down the suspect:
- A street vendor alerted police to smoke coming from a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder SUV parked at the corner of 45th Street and 7th Avenue in the heart of Times Square on Saturday evening. Upon closer inspection, police discovered it was loaded with three 20-gallon propane tanks; a metal container with M-88 fireworks; 250 pounds of urea-based fertilizer and more M-88s in a metal locker; two gasoline cans with additional M-88s; and two alarm clocks.
- Times Square, usually filled with tourists, diners and shoppers, was cleared while the New York Police bomb squad defused the device. The vehicle identification number on the dashboard had been removed but one detective crawled under the SUV to locate the number on the engine. They also began scouring numerous surveillance camera tapes to see if they could locate the individual.
- With the identification number, authorities were able to trace the vehicle back to its original owner, who gave police the contact information of the man who bought it for cash a few weeks ago, describing him as approximately 30 years old and being either of Hispanic or Middle Eastern origin.
- With that information, the FBI by Sunday evening had identified the suspect as Shahzad, a Pakistani-American. They began tracking his whereabouts, including to a home in Connecticut where search warrants were later executed and more evidence gathered. The Department of Homeland Security boosted security at all East Coast airports with a special emphasis on airports in New York, Boston and Philadelphia.
- On Monday, Shahzad was added to the U.S. no-fly list barring him from air travel and the Customs and Border Protection unit of the Department of Homeland Security alerted its officers to watch for him. Later that evening, CBP officers discovered that Shahzad had boarded Emirates flight 202 at John F. Kennedy International Airport scheduled to depart at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 GMT). The plane cabin door was closed but before before it left the gate to take off, the door was re-opened and Shahzad was removed from the flight and arrested.
- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced at a hastily arranged news conference at 1:30 a.m. EDT (0530 GMT) on Tuesday that Shahzad has been apprehended in connection with the failed car bombing attempt. Holder told reporters 12 hours later the suspect had been cooperating, had provided useful intelligence during questioning and had admitted his involvement as well as receiving bomb-making training in Pakistan. (Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky and James Vicini; Editing by David Alexander and Cynthia Osterman)