ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Four Pakistani men charged with terrorism-related offenses for allegedly helping failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad were acquitted in a Rawalpindi court Saturday, their lawyer said.
The men, Faisal Abbasi, Muhammad Shahid Husain, Muhammad Shoaib Mughal and Humbal Akhtar, had been accused of arranging meetings between Shahzad and top Pakistani Taliban leaders, and sending him money to help prepare the attack. Their lawyer, Malik Imran Safdar, said an antiterrorism court in Rawalpindi found that prosecutors failed to prove their case and released the men.
Two other men initially arrested along with the four others were released previously.
Shahzad, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty to attempting to detonate a sport utility vehicle filled with propane tanks and fertilizer in Times Square on May 1, 2010. The botched bombing marked the first time the Pakistani Taliban had tried to engineer an attack outside its strongholds in the tribal regions of western Pakistan along the Afghan border.
The son of a retired vice air marshal in the Pakistani air force, Shahzad was a financial analyst living in a Connecticut suburb when he became radicalized and went to Pakistan’s tribal areas for terrorist training. At one of his court hearings in New York, he told a judge that he viewed himself as a “Muslim soldier.”
When the Pakistanis were arrested after the failed bombing, Islamabad police described them as relatively young, middle-class men who had been close friends with Shahzad for several years. At the time, police said they facilitated Shahzad’s training at Taliban boot camps in the tribal areas and arranged for him to meet with Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mahsud. They also were accused of sending Shahzad $13,000 when he began to run short of money in the U.S. while readying the bombing attack.
Islamabad police claimed that the men had close links to Mahsud and leaders of the Pakistani Taliban, a homegrown militant group with strong ties to the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda.
-- Alex Rodriguez and Nasir Khan
Photo: Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty to plotting to detonate a car in New York's Times Square. Credit: U.S. Marshals Service / Associated Press