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Federal agents conducted Thursday morning raids in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey in connection with the failed Times Square car bomb, and arrested two people who had allegedly have a direct connection to the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, law enforcement officials said.
Two people detained during the morning raids outside of Boston are believed to have provided money to Shahzad, but investigators are not sure whether they were witting accomplices or simply moving funds as is common between Middle Eastern and Central Asian nationals who live in the U.S. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
"These people might be completely innocent and not know what they were providing money for, but it's clear there's a connection,'' the official said.
Immigration and Customs officials say they arrested a third person in Maine, but other law enforcement said that arrest is unrelated to the Times Square probe.
The FBI said the searches were part of the ongoing investigation "into the attempted Times Square bombing and do not relate to any known immediate threat to the public or active plot against the United States.”
FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz would not confirm any addresses, but police cordoned off a small house at Waverley Ave. in Watertown, Mass. a suburb about 10 miles west of Boston. FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said locations in Long Island also had been searched and later this afternoon, FBI agents were seen entering homes in Camden and Cherry Hill, N.J..
A woman living in the home in Centereach, L.I. told reporters through a closed front door: "Go find real people who are terrorists. Leave me alone, I'm American." When a reporter asked if she would open the door, she responded: "drop dead."
Federal officials say the searches were to check out money couriers who may have facilitated currency exchanges for Shahzad, the man accused of driving a bomb-laden SUV into the heart of the city on May 1 with the intent to kill Americans. The vehicle smoldered but didn't explode. Federal agents, tracing the 30-year-old Shahzad through the SUV's previous owner, caught him two days later on a plane bound for the United Arab Emirates as it was departing New York's Kennedy Airport
Investigators have been trying to trace Shahzad's money trail, considering he was unemployed and struggling financially at the time of his alleged role in the bomb plot. They say they do not know whether the alleged couriers had any idea why Shazhad wanted the money. That is, in part, what today's searches are intended to investigate.
Shahzad has not yet appeared in court. Federal investigators say he has been cooperating and has told them he received weapons training in Pakistan.
Vinny Lacerra, 50, who lives across the street from the house raided in Watertown, said he was in his living room about 6 a.m. when he heard somebody say, "FBI! Put your hands up!''
Lacerra said he looked out his windows and saw 15 to 20 FBI agents with their guns drawn surrounding the house.
He said about 15 minutes later, the agents went inside and came out with one man handcuffed and took him down the street. He also said he saw an agent from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"I was surprised to see this because this is what you see on TV,'' Lacerra said.