2 held in Mass. raids have 'connection' to Shahzad
BOSTON -- Two of the three individuals arrested after the FBI executed search warrants in Brookline and Watertown have a "direct connection" to the suspect in the failed New York City bombing, according to a top Massachusetts law enforcement official.
The searches, which lasted around three hours, were not related to any immediate threat to the public or the United States, according to authorities.
New England resident Faisal Shahzad, who was born in Pakistan, has been charged with terrorism in connection with the attempted Times Square car bombing. Authorities say the 30-year-old suspect is responsible for the rudimentary bomb created from gasoline, propane and fireworks found inside a Nissan Pathfinder in Times Square on May 1 that set off a massive manhunt.
Federal officials said the searches are in connection with trying to locate a cash flow and currency exchangers who may have assisted Shahzad, according to NBC News. (Watch: NBC's Pete Williams on the arrests)
According to NBC's Pete Williams, the men arrested are named Pir Kahn and Aftab Kahn, both from Pakistan, but stressed that they were involved in the currency exchange and may not have known what the currency was intended for.
Federal agents swarmed their Watertown house and seized boxes of evidence, including what appeared to be bags of cash.
Officials said Aftab Kahn was taken into federal custody at the Watertown house for alleged immigration violations. (Video of arrest) The Massachusetts law enforcement official said the men have a "direct connection" to Shahzad, according to the Associated Press.
Pir Kahn, a taxi driver and resident of the same Watertown home, was arrested outside the Doubletree Guest Suites in Boston.
Sources tell 7NEWS that the men were taken to separate, secret locations.
The landlord of the house where the men lived said they never caused any problems.
The AP reported the official added, "these people might be completely innocent and now know what they were providing money for, but it's clear there's a connection."
A third individual from Maine was also arrested, but that person's ties to the case are unclear.
The FBI said it is executing search similar search warrants in New York and New Jersey, according to NBC News.
Meanwhile, a fourth man was arrested in Pakistan in connection with the failed Times Square bombing attempt. He also may have helped to provide money to Shahzad.U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Press Secretary Kelly Nantel issued the following statement:
"We can confirm that search warrants have been executed in several locations in the Northeast in connection with the investigation into the attempted Time Square bombing. Two individuals encountered during the searches were taken into federal custody for alleged immigration violations. At this time we can provide no further details as the investigation is ongoing. These searches are the product of evidence that has been gathered in the investigation subsequent to the attempted Times Square bombing and do not relate to any known immediate threat to the public or active plot against the United States."
Gov. Deval Patrick apparently knew about the searches in advance. He issued the following statement on Thursday:
"The FBI, with the support of ICE and the State Police, conducted a safe and successful operation this morning in connection with the ongoing investigation of the attempted bombing in Times Square. I have been fully briefed by our public safety team and members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force over the last several days on the plans for today's events, and I thank all local, state and federal law enforcement personnel for their close, professional and effective coordination."
Sen. John Kerry's office also released a statement regarding the arrests:
"Sen. Kerry understands the FBI, Massachusetts State Police, and ICE, with the help of the local police departments conducted successful operations this morning in both Watertown and Brookline. He is in touch with the appropriate officials and continues to monitor the situation as events unfold, but as a former prosecutor who spent six years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he believes it would be inappropriate to speculate before we have a clearer understanding of the scope or results of an ongoing investigation. We have been assured that there is no threat to the public and that the areas remain safe. Everyone involved in today's operation should be commended for a job well done."
SEARCH IN WATERTOWN
On Thursday, authorities collected evidence, including paperwork, from a home in Watertown on Waverley Avenue and a Mobil gas station located on Harvard Street in Brookline. Traffic was impacted slightly in both areas.
"I was driving to work this morning. The FBI all over the place and local police, apparently, I think there was state police, too. They were just coming in and out of the house, bringing articles out," said witness Stephen Sasso.
Officials say two men in Watertown were taken into federal custody for alleged immigration violations, and according to an AP report, they have a "direct connection" to Times Square attempted bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad.
The Associated Press, who stated both men are from Pakistan, reported that one of the men was taken into custody because he had overstayed his visa, while proceedings had already commenced to remove the other man from the country. The other individual had been awaiting a ruling from an immigration court, according to the AP.
MSNBC reports that Vincent Lacerra, a witness across the street from the Watertown home, told the Boston Globe that he heard officers shout, "FBI, don't move, put your hands up!"
One witness said she saw a lot of agents surround the suspects' home, and then saw one man taken into custody.
"Probably 20 minutes or so later, (they) came out with the man, a small man, around late 20's. He had the shackles on, and the handcuffs, and they brought him to the car, which was right in front of me. Then I got a picture of him. He just kind of glanced real quickly at me, and then put his head down. He was very calm the whole time. He just walked out with his head down, walked into the car, didn't struggle or fight or anything," said Barbara Lacerra, a neighbor.
Neighbors said they weren't sure who else lived in the residence, but that the men who were taken into federal custody kept to themselves.
Joshi Shubh Ramesh reportedly owns the house in Watertown. Authorities also searched another property he owns in Somerville on Thursday.
INVESTIGATION IN BROOKLINE
In Brookline, gas station owner Elias Audy was surrounded by agents early on. He spoke with agents for about a half hour outside the station. (Watch: Audy's brother Bill speaks to 7NEWS)
In addition, agents investigated car keys to the gas station bathrooms. Others catalogued evidence, including documents, and searched a silver Honda Accord that reportedly belongs to a new station employee of Pakistani descent.
Customers at the gas station, which doubles as a used car dealership, were allowed to retrieve their keys from agents upon showing their IDs.
One resident told 7NEWS that the Audy family is well-respected in Brookline.
"Oh sure, everybody knows his family. They own a couple of gas stations, and they're very philanthropic and active within the community, and they're wonderful. They're very well-known and have been here for a long time," said a local woman.
"Brookline is a safe place," the chief of police emphasized as the investigation continued.
One of the men arrested in Watertown was apparently a recent hire at the gas station.
THE TIMES SQUARE ATTEMPT BOMBING
The U.S. Justice Department says they arrested Shahzad 53 hours after the search began. They say Shahzad acknowledged that he created the weapon of mass destruction intended to harm thousands.
"Based on what we know so far, it is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country," Attorney General Eric Holder said in Washington.
"As Americans and as a nation, we will not be terrorized. We will not cower in fear. We will not be intimidated," added President Obama. (Watch press conference)
Federal officials talked to the woman in a Bridgeport home who apparently sold the vehicle to Shahzad a few weeks ago. Her family did not want to talk on camera.
Officials say two days of intense work led agents to arrest Shahzad aboard a Dubai-bound flight. Before he boarded the flight, reports show Shahzad parked his car at a JFK lot. When his car was searched, authorities say they found a 9 mm handgun with five full clips.
He has been charged with terrorism and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
In Pakistan, authorities have detained at least five people in connection with the Times Square incident.
After the incident, airlines became required to check updated no-fly lists within two hours of being notified of changes to the list. (More details)
-- SLIDESHOW: FBI in Brookline, Watertown
-- Watertown arrest
-- VIEWER VOICES: Worried about a terror attack?
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