ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani police arrested several people on Tuesday in connection with the failed Times Square car bomb attack in New York, security sources said.
“We have picked up a few family members” related to Faisal Shahzad, the chief suspect in the attempted attack, a security official in Karachi said. A friend of Shahzad was also arrested.
Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistani-American, was arrested late on Monday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after being removed from a plane as it was about take off for Dubai, U.S. officials said. [nN04129610]
Another intelligence official in Pakistan said Shahzad received militant training in northwest Pakistan near the garrison town of Kohat. The area around Kohat is a stronghold of Tariq Afridi, the Pakistani Taliban commander in the region.
The Pakistani government, which could come under renewed U.S. pressure to crack down harder on militants after the Times Square incident, said on Tuesday it would help the United States bring Shahzad to justice
Shahzad will appear in Manhattan federal court later on Tuesday to face charges “for allegedly driving a car bomb into Times Square on the evening of May 1,” according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, FBI agent George Venizelos and New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
“We will cooperate with the United States in identifying this individual and bringing him to justice,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters.
U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson met Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Malik and discussed the issue, Pakistani officials and the U.S. Embassy said.
“We have an ongoing cooperation with the United States on anti-terrorism efforts. If required by the United States, we will extend full cooperation to them in this regard,” Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said.
Malik said Faisal’s family came from northwestern Pakistan which is mainly inhabited by Pashtuns and where Islamic militants are active.
“He belongs to Pabbi,” he said, referring to a small town near the northwestern city of Peshawar.
“He has Pakistani identification documents. We are making further checks.”
A source familiar with the investigation in the United States said Faisal was of Kashmiri descent.
Pakistan is an ally of the United States and has arrested hundreds of al Qaeda operatives and handed over many of them to the United States after it signed up to the U.S.-led “war on terrorism” after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.
The Taliban in Pakistan said on Sunday it planted the bomb in Times Square to avenge the killing in April of al Qaeda’s two leaders in Iraq as well as U.S. interference in Muslim countries.
Some officials voiced skepticism about the claim. But former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, who last year oversaw an Obama administration strategy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan, cautioned against dismissing a possible role by the Taliban.
Editing by Angus MacSwan