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Disbelief in Pakistan over Times Square suspect

The family village of the suspected Times Square bomber is a world away from the bustle and bright lights of New York, where U.S. investigators say the man wanted to kill and maim.
Image: A boy looks through the gate of the ancestral home of Shahzad in  Pakistan
A boy looks through the main gate of the ancestral home of the family of Faisal Shahzad in Mohib Banda, in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province, on May 5, 2010. Shahzad, a Pakistani-American, is being held in New York on suspicion of driving a bomb-laden car into Times Square.Faisal Mahmood / Reuters
/ Source: Reuters

The family village of the suspected Times Square bomber is a world away from the bustle and bright lights of New York, where investigators say the Pakistani-born man wanted to kill and maim.

Farmers harvest wheat. A vendor sells lentils. Stray dogs and donkeys roam as a man rides past in a horse-drawn carriage.

A tiny, dusty road that cuts through wheat, maize and rice crops is named after one of the more than 2,000 Pakistani soldiers killed in the war against militants since 2001, a gesture that could attract the Taliban's wrath.

Faisal Shahzad's path to what authorities say was a Times Square terror plot could not have started here, residents say.

Shahzad, 30, who was born in Pakistan and became a U.S. citizen last year, is accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in the heart of Manhattan on Saturday night.

"We did not find any religious germ in him," said Faiz Ahmed, a community leader who said he met Shahzad 18 months ago.

As the son of a retired air vice marshal, Shahzad moved around different parts of Pakistan, making it more difficult for Pakistani and U.S. authorities to figure out how and when he may have established connections with militant groups.

A security official in Pakistan said authorities are following leads after the detention of several people. One was arrested in a mosque in Karachi, Pakistan's commercial hub, and has been linked with jihadi groups, the official said.

That suspect said he had traveled with Shahzad to Peshawar, the city hit hardest by Taliban bombings.

Shahzad has admitted to trying to detonate the bomb in an SUV and that he received explosives-training in a known Taliban and al-Qaida stronghold in Pakistan. But villagers can't understand how one of their own could have done such things. Some remember him as a reclusive man dedicated to his family and studies.

Anti-American feelings
A dozen startled villagers stood near the locked wooden gate of a large house belonging to Shahzad's relatives, wondering if his family would be caught up in a case that reminded Americans they are still not safe nine years after the September 11 attacks.

"Has his family been picked up?" a young man asked.

Anti-American sentiments run high in Pakistan, from bustling cities like Karachi to typical, conservative villages like this one, where women walk around in all-enveloping burqas.

As in much of Pakistan, many here say the United States wants to dictate Pakistani policy. Shahzad's case, which has dominated world headlines, is a conspiracy, some suspect.

"America is our enemy. It wants to defame us. The arrest of Faisal is meant to malign a respected family and Pakistan," said villager Bashir-ur-Rehman.

Mohib Banda, with a population of about 5,000, is a far cry from Times Square, where tourists and theater-goers would have been cut down had the crude bomb not fizzled.

The high-profile case is overwhelming for some. It reminded them of the turmoil in Pakistan, where suicide bombings have killed hundreds despite a series of military offensives against the al-Qaida-backed Pakistani Taliban.

"What is happening to this country, this village and especially this family? By God, I feel like weeping," said Nazirullah Khan, a retired school teacher.