U.S. and Pakistani officials are questioning four alleged members of an al-Qaida- linked militant group over possible connections to the failed Times Square bombing suspect, intelligence officials said Thursday.
Meanwhile, the father of suspect Faisal Shahzad was taken into protective custody by Pakistan's main intelligence agency, an agent from the organization said. He said the father, a former top air force officer, was not considered a suspect and was being questioned about his son's activities.
The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because the agency does not allow operatives to be named in the media.
Authorities from both nations are trying to trace Shahzad's movements during his recent five-month stay in Pakistan. They are seeking to establish whether he linked up with any of Pakistan's Islamist terror groups and received instructions, funding or training.
The 30-year-old Pakistani-American was arrested Monday as he tried to leave the United States on a jetliner headed to Dubai. Shahzad, who lived in Pakistan until the age of 18, is accused of trying to detonate a crude gasoline-and-propane bomb inside an SUV in New York's bustling Times Square on Saturday evening.
In recent days, authorities in Pakistan's commercial hub of Karachi have detained four alleged members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group over possible links to Shahzad, two Pakistani security officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
They said U.S. and Pakistani law enforcement officials had been given access to the men.
Shahzad comes from a relatively wealthy family in Pakistan which has not been seen since his arrest. A residence owned by the family in Peshawar has been shuttered since Tuesday evening. It has a high gray gate and matching fences on its balcony and roof.
Most houses in Pakistan are similarly constructed to stop people from looking in. In conservative areas like Peshawar, woman are hidden either at home or behind a veil when they venture out.
Pakistan and the U.S. are close — if sometimes uneasy — allies and CIA officials have been known to question al-Qaida and other terror suspects here.
One of the officials said a detainee named Mohammad Rehan may have traveled with Shahzad to Peshawar, a main jumping off point to the Afghan border region.
Jaish-e-Mohammad is believed to have been established by Pakistani intelligence agencies, which used it to fight in Indian-ruled parts of the Kashmir region. It has since been linked to al-Qaida. Its members and associates are suspected in the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Karachi in 2002, and in a bombing the same year in the city that killed 11 French engineers.
Shahzad has reportedly told U.S. investigators that he spent time in Wazirstan, an al-Qaida and Pakistani Taliban stronghold close to the Afghan border.