A US citizen has been arrested in connection with the failed car bombing in New York's Times Square last weekend but investigators continue to pursue leads, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday.
The suspect - identified by Holder as Faisal Shahzad - is of Pakistani origin, a law enforcement official told Reuters.
The New York Times said the man lives in neighboring Connecticut and recently returned from a trip to Pakistan.
Holder said the suspect was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as he tried to take a flight to Dubai. Authorities in New York said he would appear in Manhattan Federal Court later on Tuesday.
"It's clear that the intent behind this terrorist act was to kill Americans," Holder said at an early morning news conference. "We continue to gather leads in this investigation, and it's important that the American people remain vigilant."
The New York Times said the man was a naturalized US citizen from Pakistan who lives in neighboring Connecticut and recently returned from a trip to Pakistan.
The sources said the arrested man was believed to be the buyer of the 1993 Nissan sport utility vehicle used to carry the crude bomb made of fuel and fireworks into Times Square as it was packed with people on a warm Saturday evening.
For New Yorkers who bore the brunt of the Sept. 11 attacks by al-Qaeda militants in 2001, the scare was a reminder that their city of 8 million people is under constant threat.
Morning after: Back to normal (Photo: Reuters)
"Investigators who were tracking the man were also exploring whether he or others who might have been involved in the attempted bombing had been in contact with people or groups overseas," the Times said, citing unnamed federal officials.
Law enforcement sources told Reuters that Saturday's attempted attack may have involved more than one person and could have international ties.
The hunt for the suspects has now been taken over by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, led by the Justice Department, as investigators pore over surveillance camera footage, the Pathfinder and the bomb parts for clues.
'Intended to terrorize'
Street vendors selling T-shirts and handbags alerted police to the smoking and sparking Nissan Pathfinder that was parked awkwardly with its engine running and hazard lights on near a Broadway theater where Disney's "The Lion King" is performed.
The Pathfinder, with a license plate taken from a car now in a repair shop in Connecticut, was rigged with propane gas cylinders, gasoline cans, fertilizer, fireworks and timing devices when it was found in Times Square.
"I would say that that was intended to terrorize," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters. "And I would say that whoever did that would be categorized as a terrorist."
The incident had little impact on Monday on a broadly stronger stock market and Treasury bonds stayed lower in a similarly muted reaction, with attention focused on encouraging economic data and reduced anxiety over Greece.
The registered owner of the vehicle told police he sold it three weeks ago without any paperwork to a 29- or 30-year-old man described as Hispanic or Middle Eastern, the sources told Reuters.
Several officials cautioned against drawing conclusions because the investigation was still in the early stages.
"I can't at this point rule in or out the possibility of international connections," said one senior US intelligence official.
The New York Times said investigators appear to be assigning less importance to a white man in his 40s seen removing a shirt in a surveillance video released by police.
Police said they plan to release a second video, taken by a tourist in Times Square and showing a man running near the scene at about the time of the incident.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg described the failed bomb attack as an "amateurish job" but authorities said the device could have created a deadly fireball had it detonated.
"If anything was made clear on Saturday night, it's that New York is a target," US Senator Charles Schumer, a Brooklyn native, said as he urged Washington to give the city $30 million to boost security.
US Attorney General Eric Holder vowed that those responsible would be arrested.
"We have made really substantial progress. We have some good leads," Holder told reporters in Washington. "We are following a number of other leads as well."
The Taliban in Pakistan said on Sunday it planted the bomb to avenge the killing in April of al-Qaeda's two top leaders in Iraq. New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Bloomberg have said there was "no evidence" to support that claim.
But former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, who oversaw an Obama administration strategy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan last year, cautioned against dismissing a possible role of the Pakistani Taliban in the failed car bomb.
"They have said they want to attack inside the United States," Riedel said before the Times report, adding there was "a very serious possibility" the incident involved "some Pakistani-American who has never built a car bomb before in his life but who is being coached either by phone or Internet."