Video: Feds hope raids expose terror money trail

msnbc.com news services
updated 5/14/2010 7:52:55 AM ET 2010-05-14T11:52:55

Pakistan has arrested a suspect linked to the Pakistani Taliban who said he helped the accused Times Square bomb plotter, The Washington Post reported on Thursday, citing U.S. officials.

The suspect provided an "independent stream" of evidence that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack, the newspaper reported.

The suspect also admitted helping Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the attempted Times Square bombing, travel into Pakistan's tribal areas for bomb training, according to the report.

Officials familiar with the probe cautioned that there have been inconsistencies in the two suspects' accounts, the Post said.

The suspect in Pakistani custody "is believed to have a connection to the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan)," a U.S. intelligence official was quoted as saying.

The official was cited as saying that certain clues have added to authorities' understanding of the Times Square plot, but "what is definitely true is that a lot of this comes from the statements of people directly involved."

Three held after U.S. raids
Earlier Thursday, three Pakistani men suspected of providing money to Shahzad were arrested in raids across the Northeast, law enforcement officials said.

Investigators said it was not yet clear whether the three men knew how the money was going to be used.

The men — two seized in the Boston area, one in Maine — were arrested as federal authorities searched homes and businesses in a coordinated series of raids centered in the Boston suburbs, on New York's Long Island, and in New Jersey.

They were arrested on immigration violations — administrative, not criminal, charges. They were not charged with any terrorism-related crimes. Their names were not released.

The raids resulted from evidence gathered in the investigation into the Times Square bomb attempt two weeks ago. FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz gave assurances Thursday that there was "no known immediate threat to the public or any active plot against the United States."

Holder: Uncertain of intent
In Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder said investigators believe there is evidence that the men were providing Shahzad, a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen, with money, but they have yet to determine whether the men knew the funds might have been intended for a terrorist act.

Image: FBI Investigators in Watertown, Mass.
Steven Senne  /  AP
FBI investigators move between a van and a home at 39 Waverley Ave., in Watertown, Mass., on Thursday.
A top Massachusetts law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still going on, said investigators are not sure whether the two Boston-area men were witting accomplices or simply moving funds, as is common among people from the Middle East and Central Asia who live in the U.S.

"These people might be completely innocent and not know what they were providing money for," the official cautioned, "but it's clear there's a connection."

Authorities have been investigating whether Shahzad — who authorities say needed only a few thousand dollars to buy the used SUV and the bomb components used in the attempted May 1 attack — was financed from overseas.

Muslim immigrants for years have used informal money transfer networks known as "hawalas" — which rely on wire transfers, couriers and overnight mail and are cheaper and quicker than banks — to send cash to their families overseas. But since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, authorities have worked to dismantle the system, fearing it allows terrorists to raise and launder money.

Overstayed visas
Two of the men under arrest overstayed their visas and the third is already in removal proceedings, said another law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Shahzad, 30, has waived his right daily to appear in court since his May 1 arrest on charges he tried to blow up a van packed with a gasoline and propane outside Times Square's busy restaurants and Broadway theaters, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Thursday. He is continuing to provide investigators with information, Bharara said.

Video: Three Pakistani men held "We are doing exactly what, I think, people want us to do, and that is to make sure we get all the information we can with respect to any associates he may have, and other information that would help us to prevent anything further from happening in the United States," the prosecutor said.

Shahzad, a budget analyst who lives in Bridgeport, Conn., returned to the U.S. in February from five months in Pakistan, where authorities say he claims to have received training in making bombs.

A law enforcement official called Thursday's raids "an evidence-gathering operation" and not a search for suspects. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said officials are investigating whether Shahzad got his cash through illegal money transfers.

‘FBI! Put your hands up!’
Authorities raided a home in Watertown and a Mobil gas station and a vehicle in Brookline, another Boston suburb; a condominium in Cherry Hill, N.J.; a print shop in Camden, N.J., and two Long Island homes, law enforcement officials said.

Vinny Lacerra, 50, who lives across the street from the Watertown house, said he was in his living room about 6 a.m. when he heard somebody shout, "FBI! Put your hands up!" and saw 15 to 20 agents with guns drawn surrounding the house.

Ashim Chakraborty, who owns a home raided in Centereach, N.Y., said FBI and police wanted to interview a Pakistani man and an American woman who live in the basement. The woman, who did not identify herself, was still in the basement Thursday afternoon, telling reporters only, "Drop dead. I'm an American."

There was no immediate comment from Pakistan on the raids.

Islamabad has said it was too early to say whether the Pakistani Taliban, which operates from the country's lawless northwest tribal region, was behind the Times Square plot, although the U.S. has said it found a definite link.

Pakistan has detained at least four people with alleged connections to Shahzad.

Information from the Washington Post, Reuters and The Associated Press is included in this report.

The Associated Press and NBC's Pete Williams contributed to this report.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments