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Times Square car bomb suspect appears in NY court

Appearing relaxed and obedient, the man accused of plotting a car bombing in Times Square makes his first appearance in a Manhattan courtroom.

NEW YORK // Appearing relaxed and obedient, the man accused of plotting a car bombing in Times Square made his first appearance in a Manhattan courtroom where he was told by a magistrate judge that he had the right to remain silent. Authorities say Faisal Shahzad's willingness to talk kept him out of court for two weeks, speeding up the progress of an investigation into his May 1 plot to set off a homemade car bomb on a spring Saturday evening amid hundreds of people enjoying the tourist haven.

Authorities said shortly after Mr Shahzad's May 3 arrest that he had admitted driving the SUV bomb into Times Square and told authorities he had received terror training during a recent five-month trip to Pakistan. His co-operation did not eliminate the need to bring him to court yesterday to face five charges, including attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and attempted acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, each of which carry potential penalties of life in prison.

The hearing lasted only 10 minutes. Mr Shahzad, 30, a Pakistan-born US citizen, confirmed with a "yes" that his financial affidavit was accurate, permitting him to be appointed an assistant public defender, Julia Gatto, who declined to comment afterward. Mr Shahzad, wearing a grey sweat suit and with his hair a bit longer than in photos splashed around the world, was treated like any other prisoner, except for the extra court officers on hand. The courtroom was closed just before his appearance for a security sweep.

There was also no sign that Mr Shahzad had secured any special benefits from his co-operation, though he was wearing a sweat suit rather than a prison uniform. When the hearing ended, he stood up and handcuffs were put on his wrists behind his back. He walked out without looking at spectators, including mostly prosecutors, investigators and reporters. Magistrate Judge James C Francis read him his rights, including his right to remain silent, and warned him that anything he might say could be used against him. He was detained without bail in the attack in which the bomb never exploded and no one was hurt.

The ex-budget analyst from Bridgeport, Connecticut, was pulled two days after the attempted attack from a Dubai-bound plane at John F Kennedy International Airport. In addition to the most serious charges, Mr Shahzad was also charged with using a destructive device in an attempted violent crime, punishable by up to 30 years in prison; transporting and receiving explosives, punishable by up to 10 years; and attempting to damage and destroy property with fire and explosives, punishable by five to 20 years.

Since his arrest, Mr Shahzad "has provided valuable intelligence from which further investigative action has been taken," the US attorney's office in Manhattan said in a statement yesterday. Federal authorities raided locations in three states last week and picked up three men on immigration violations. The men are suspected of providing money to Shahzad to help build the homemade bomb of fireworks, propane and battery-operated alarm clocks.

Officials in Pakistan have taken several people into custody, including two men arrested last week on suspicion of helping finance the failed plot. CIA Director Leon Panetta and retired Gen James Jones, President Barack Obama's national security adviser, were in Pakistan meeting with officials there on the failed Times Square bombing and the terrorist safe havens where the suspect is believed to have received training.

In light of the attack, National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said "we believe that it is time to redouble our efforts with our allies in Pakistan to close this safe haven and create an environment where we and the Pakistani people can lead safe and productive lives." One US official said the trip is not confined to the Times Square bombing issues, but noted that the emphasis is on co-operation between the US and Pakistan and what both countries need to do to keep pressure on the extremists in that region. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the meetings.

Mr Shahzad appeared in court on the same day a New York defence attorney wrote a letter to a chief federal court judge demanding he be produced. Ron Kuby accused authorities of violating Mr Shahzad's rights by "squeezing him for information" in secret. Authorities have not publicly addressed a possible motive for Mr Shahzad. But in e-mails provided by a Connecticut doctor, Mr Shahzad complained that Muslims were under siege around the globe and that Muslim countries were doing little to respond.

"Everyone knows how the Muslim country bows down to pressure from the West," he wrote on February 25, 2006. "Everyone knows the kind of humiliation we are faced with around the globe." The e-mails, first reported by The New York Times, were provided to the Associated Press by Dr Saud Anwar, a founder of the Pakistani American Association of Connecticut, who said he was given them by a friend who received them.

* AP

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