KARACHI, Pakistan — Security officials moved swiftly here to round up as many as eight associates of Faisal Shahzad, the American citizen of Pakistani origin who faces terrorism charges after admitting his role in a failed car-bomb attack Saturday night in Times Square.
In a series of raids that stretched into the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday in this southern port city, friends and several family relatives were picked up for questioning, Pakistani authorities told the national media here.
A relative of the suspect, Kifayat Ali, said in an interview with GlobalPost at a family home in Peshawar that: “None of the family members have ever been involved with any Jihadi organization.”
“This is a conspiracy against all Pashtun people,” he said, adding: “It will be confirmed just in a few hours whether he was involved in this case or not.”
One of those detained in the raids here overnight was believed to be Tauseef Ahmed, a purported cousin of Shahzad, sources said, adding that he was arrested from a predominantly residential neighborhood of Karachi called Gulshan-e-Iqbal.
Shahzad, whose father was a ranking member of the Pakistani military, seems to have had connections in Islamabad also. Pakistani authorities said that he had given an Islamabad address on his disembarkation card. He traveled on a 10-year, multiple entry visa, the sources added.
It was not clear Tuesday night whether any arrests had been made here in connection with the case in New York, where Shahzad was captured Tuesday on board a Dubai-bound plane set to depart from Kennedy International Airport.
But it was clear that Pakistan, which has been routinely criticized by U.S. counter-terrorism officials for dragging its feet in confronting Taliban and Al Qaeda elements inside the country, seemed to be going out of its way to publicly demonstrate cooperation with U.S. officials in the investigation.
Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met almost immediately with U.S. Ambassador Anne W. Patterson, and assured her of full cooperation.
It was announced that one of Pakistan's top cops, and Director of the Federal Investigation Agency, Khalid Qureshi, was heading up a high-level team to investigate the matter.
U.S. officials have said that the 30-year-old Shahzad had recently returned to his home in Connecticut after a five-month stay in Pakistan.
The trip to Pakistan, where it is believed his wife and two children are living, included a visit to the Northwest Frontier Province where Taliban and Al Qaeda bases are woven into the rugged, impenetrable terrain along the border with Afghanistan.
Specifically, Pakistani officials said, Shahzad had visited the tribal areas, where the Pakistani Taliban is deeply entrenched.
Pakistani authorities said the family owned a home in Peshawar, the lawless city that sits at the foot of the Khyber Pass leading into Afghanistan and where the fiery sermons of Taliban-inspired clerics echo from the minarets of local mosques.
"There's a very good possibility that he got his training at a militant camp in the badlands near Nizampur," said one source, referring to a small village set high in the iron mining areas of the North-West Frontier Province.
Shahzad told investigators he acted alone and denied any ties to radical groups in Pakistan, a U.S. law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told Reuters.
Shahzad’s journey from Pakistan to a seemingly routine life working in the financial services near his home in a working class part of Bridgeport, Connecticut, to return to his native Pakistan is common, of course, for many immigrants.
But it seems to be a recent phenomenon that well-adjusted immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries are being drawn to militancy against the United States, raising some fears about the specter of violent extremism from within the U.S.
In the past two years, more than 10 people with American citizenship or residency, like Shahzad, have been accused of supporting or carrying out terrorism attempts on U.S. soil.
They include Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, a U.S.-born Army psychiatrist of Palestinian descent, charged with fatally shooting 13 people last year at Fort Hood, Texas. Also, Najibullah Zazi, a Denver-area airport shuttle driver who pleaded guilty in February in a plot to bomb New York subways. And a Pennsylvania woman who authorities say became radicalized online as "Jihad Jane" and plotted to kill a Swedish artist whose work offended Muslims.
Salman Ahmed reports from Karachi for GlobalPost.