The suspected driver in a failed car bombing of Times Square fits the profile of a recent wave of “homegrown” terrorists threatening the America, New York police officials warned Tuesday.
The officials said Faisal Shahzad and other suspects like Najibullah Zazi – the admitted leader of a plot to bomb the New York subway system – had roots in working- or middle-class society, some college education and no previous criminal records, but became radicalized in part by traveling to overseas terrorist hotbeds.
The Times Square threat was “a classic case of homegrown terrorism,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a briefing for private security executives.
Police officials also outlined the development of a cutting-edge security camera system in lower Manhattan they hope to expand to Times Square and the rest of midtown.
Prosecutors allege Shahzad, a Pakistan-born US citizen living in Connecticut, claimed he received bomb-making training during a recent trip to lawless tribal areas of Waziristan. And Attorney General Eric Holder has said investigators have evidence that the Pakistani Taleban helped facilitate and finance the botched bombing.
New York Police Department analyst Mitch Silber said that along with foreign travel, homegrown terrorists typically fall under the spell of extremist, anti-American literature and rhetoric found on the Internet or elsewhere.
Among the items found in Shahzad’s home was a version of the Quran known for its “violent interpretation” of jihad, Silber said.
The 30-year-old Shahzad is accused of driving a bomb-laden SUV into Times Square on May 1, causing a panic and clearing streets of thousands of tourists. After an intense, two-day manhunt, federal agents caught him on a Dubai-bound plane as it was departing Kennedy Airport.
Kelly told reporters after the briefing that Shahzad still hadn’t appeared in court on Tuesday because he was continuing to provide information in an ongoing investigation. He declined to say whether authorities were seeking other suspects.
The briefing at police headquarters in lower Manhattan was part of a program designed to encourage more vigilance by private security at large hotels, Wall Street firms and other companies.
The presentation included a progress report on a surveillance camera system inspired by the so-called “ring of steel” in London, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited Tuesday to study security measures.
The system covering the streets of lower Manhattan eventually will have 3,000 police and private cameras – far fewer than in London. But the NYPD officials said they hope to make their system much more sophisticated by using computer software that can program cameras to automatically detect suspicious packages or activity picked up by the cameras and alert police.
Unlike London, where video data is “fragmented and decentralized,” police using the New York system already can “pull up any camera and scroll back for 30 days on any (computer) terminal on the network,” said Jessica Tisch, an NYPD counterterrorism official.
Several hundred cameras linked to the vast fiber-optic network are monitored at a command center in a lower Manhattan high-rise. The department will begin to expand the system to midtown Manhattan in the fall, Kelly said.