By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 14 (IANS) Fanning out across northeast United States, federal agents have arrested three people from Pakistan suspected of providing money, possibly by the hawala system, to Times Square car bombing's Pakistani American accused Faisal Shazad.
Two of the Pakistani suspects were picked up Thursday in the Boston area and the third in Maine for immigration violations, officials said. Federal agents were also executing search warrants in connection with the Times Square probe in New York and New Jersey.
CBS News citing law enforcement sources said that investigators have determined that Shahzad used the informal hawala courier system popular in South Asia and the Middle East and often used by terrorists and criminals to conceal the flow of money without raising red flags.
The news channel said it's unclear whether Shahzad used the hawala system in part or totally in obtaining financing for the attack, including the purchase of the SUV he allegedly packed with explosive material and parked in Times Square and the purchase of his ticket to Dubai from Kennedy Airport to escape authorities.
Thursday's raids were multi-pronged, following different "tentacles" of the Shahzad investigation, CNN said citing a federal law enforcement source.
"We are focusing on many different things....where and how he got the money, from whom, who he met with, his friends, associates, where he travelled, phone calls, e-mails," the source said.
So far, that analysis is leading investigators in the direction of the Pakistani Taliban. Investigators are continuing to focus on the identities of those individuals with the help of Pakistani intelligence and law enforcement.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that those arrested "are people who are connected to Mr. Shahzad - we're not sure what the connection was."
"There is at least a [basis] to believe that one of the things that they did was to provide him with funds, and so we are trying to trace back to see what exactly was the nature of those transactions," he said on a conference call.
"These searches are the product of evidence that has been gathered in the investigation since the attempted Times Square bombing and do not relate to any known immediate threat to the public or active plot against the United States," he told the House Judiciary Committee.