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2 in Pakistan proud of ties to N.Y. suspect

Pair admit role in bombing plot, investigator says

By Asif Shahzad
Associated Press / May 23, 2010

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Two men detained in Pakistan for alleged links to the attempted Times Square bombing have admitted playing a role in the botched attack and are unrepentant, a senior intelligence official said yesterday.

The pair are among six men officials say have been detained in Pakistan for alleged ties to Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American arrested in the United States two days after the failed May 1 attack in New York. Like Shahzad, the detainees are all members of their country’s urban elite, including several who were educated in the United States.

Details about the six were released late Friday, though officials have not said when they were detained. Five were picked up in the capital, Islamabad, and one is co-owner of a catering company that the US Embassy said was suspected of ties to terrorist groups.

The intelligence official, part of the team questioning the men, said the two suspects asserted that they did not do anything wrong and “proudly’’ described Shahzad as their friend.

The official said one of the suspects had even accused his interrogators of “siding with the infidels.’’

One suspect, identified as Shoaib Mughal, is alleged to be a go-between for Shahzad and Pakistani Taliban in their hide-outs close the Afghan border. He was running a large computer store in Islamabad before his detention, said the intelligence official who — like most operatives in spy agencies around the world — did not give his name.

The other suspect, identified only by his first name Shahid, is alleged to have helped arrange money for Shahzad. He has an MBA from the United States and apparently knew Shahzad there.

The other four suspects have also expressed their hatred for the West and the United States, but have not admitted any links with Shahzad, the official said.

None of the men has been charged, though in Pakistan that sometimes does not happen for months, if not years, particularly if detainees are held by an intelligence agency.

Shahzad, a former financial analyst from Bridgeport, Conn., is accused of leaving a sport utility vehicle rigged with a homemade car bomb in Times Square on May 1 that failed to explode. The 30-year-old was born in Pakistan and moved to the United States when he was 18.

Shahzad asserted during a long interrogation that he received financial support from the Pakistani Taliban, two US law enforcement officials close to the investigation said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the inquiry has not been completed.

Investigators believe his US funding was channeled through an underground money transfer network known as “hawala,’’ the officials said.

Authorities arrested Aftab Ali Khan, 27, and Pir Khan, a 43-year-old taxi driver, both of Watertown, and Mohammad Shafiq Rahman, a 33-year-old computer programmer from South Portland, Maine, on immigration violations as part of the investigation into the alleged bombing attempt by Shahzad. None of the three has been charged criminally.

Among those detained in Pakistan was Salman Ashraf Khan, the co-owner of the upscale Hanif Rajput Catering Service. Two other suspects “wanted him to help bomb a big gathering of foreigners,’’ the Pakistani intelligence officer said.

Hanif Rajput Catering Service is popular among foreign embassies and many of Pakistan’s wealthiest companies and individuals. The US Embassy warned that the company is suspected of ties to terrorist groups and said American diplomats had been instructed to stop using the firm.

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