Pakistan Frees Ex-Army Major Held in Times Square Bomb Plot Probe

By ASIF SHAHZAD
|  Saturday, May 29, 2010  |  Updated 2:02 PM EDT
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Times Square Bomb Scare

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder holds a press conference at Department of Justice headquarters regarding the investigation into the recent attempted Times Square car bombing May 4, 2010 in Washington, DC. Faisal Shahzad, 30, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan was arrested in connection with the case while on board a flight leaving the country.

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A retired army major said Saturday he had been cleared of any wrongdoing after Pakistani intelligence released him from custody in connection with the attempted car bombing in Times Square.

Adnan Ahmad and his brother were among at least 11 people that Pakistan has rounded up since the failed attack May 1. Two other suspects face allegations of involvement in the plot, but no one in Pakistan has been charged.

Ahmad's detention was especially sensitive because of ongoing U.S. suspicion that elements in Pakistan's military and intelligence world who are sympathetic to Islamist causes have assisted would-be jihadists.

Pakistan's army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas confirmed for the first time Saturday that Ahmad was dismissed from the military because he had ties to banned organizations, but he would not elaborate.

The main suspect in the car bomb case, Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, is being held by U.S. authorities. Shahzad is the son of a former Pakistani air force officer.

Ahmad was let go on Friday upon orders from higher-ups, an intelligence official confirmed on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

He would not give any details about the man's detention or what information it yielded.

Ahmad went missing May 10, and his brother, computer engineer Qamar Ahmad, disappeared a couple of days later.

Reached at a Rawalpindi residence via phone Saturday, Ahmad told The Associated Press that he was fine and that he expected his brother to be released shortly.

"It was confusion. I am now back with my family," the former major said. "It is a proof that it was just a misunderstanding. They have cleared me."

He declined to discuss anything about his detention or his ties to Shahzad. Intelligence officials have said he was linked to people who knew Shahzad.

Ahmad also would not discuss the circumstances surrounding his departure from the army or exactly when it happened.

Intelligence officials have said he bought his way out in the last two months because of a "disagreement" with the army's policies. But the army's chief spokesman said Ahmad was forced out.

"He was dismissed from service for his links with proscribed organizations," Abbas said.

U.S. officials have accused Shahzad of working with the Pakistani Taliban to organize the car bomb, a rudimentary device that failed to detonate. Shahzad was arrested two days after the failed attack as he tried to fly out of the U.S. on a Dubai-bound plane.

The continued, secretive detention of suspects in Pakistan has worried their families as well as human rights officials who have criticized such actions by the country's powerful and largely unaccountable intelligence agencies.

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