3 Pakistani men are arrested in Times Square bomb probe

  • Fri May 14th, 2010 6:26pm
  • News

Associated Press

WATERTOWN, Mass. — Three Pakistani men who authorities say supplied funds to Times Square car bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad were arrested Thursday in a series of raids across the Northeast as the FBI followed the money trail in the failed attack.

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.

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.”

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.

A top Massachusetts law enforcement official said investigators are not sure whether the two Boston-area men were willing 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.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said there was “not a direct tie” between the man arrested in South Portland, Maine, and the Times Square car bomb suspect.

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.

A federal law enforcement official said money was passed to Shahzad through the informal transfer networks known as hawalas.

Muslim immigrants for years have used 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.