(CN) – A naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan said he received explosives training in Pakistan before he tried to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, prosecutors say in a criminal complaint filed Tuesday. Investigators say they tracked down Faisal Shahzad, 30, by tracing the sale of the smoldering Nissan Pathfinder abandoned Saturday night in the heart of New York City.
Shahzad was arrested at the Kennedy Airport Monday as his plane was about to leave for Dubai. He was charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and related crimes for the failed bombing.
The Pathfinder was loaded with propane tanks, gasoline canisters, fertilizer, fireworks, alarm clocks and wiring, according to an affidavit included with the complaint.
Investigators say the SUV was “visibly smoking” when emergency workers arrived, based on a bystander’s tip, and the items in the back were “smoldering” from Shahzad’s failed attempt to ignite them.
FBI agents were able to trace Shahzad through the vehicle identification number, which they used to contact the car’s seller, according to the affidavit. Keys recovered in the Pathfinder also linked Shahzad to the bombing, including a key to an Isuzu Rodeo and to his house in Connecticut, authorities say.
Shahzad allegedly paid $1,300 cash for the Pathfinder in late April, and used a pre-paid cell phone to call a fireworks store and to talk to contacts in Pakistan. Investigators say Shahzad arranged to buy the Pathfinder from the same Pakistani number.
He was arrested late Monday night as his plane was about to take off for Dubai. Prosecutors say Shahzad admitted to having tried to explode a car bomb in Times Square and to having trained in Waziristan, Pakistan, a hub for militant groups.
“It is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in this country,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said at a news conference Tuesday. “We believe this suspected terrorist fashioned a bomb from rudimentary ingredients, placed it in a rusty SUV and drove it into Times Square with the intent to kill as many innocent tourists and theater-goers as possible.”
He commended law enforcement agents and prosecutors for their “quick action,” and said the government would use “every resource available to bring everyone responsible to justice.”