Pakistan will soon bring terrorism charges against three men alleged to have helped the failed Times Square bomber meet up with militant leaders close to the Afghan border and send him money to carry out the attack, a senior police officer said Wednesday.
The three have been held since soon after the May 1 attempted car bombing, but the announcement marks the first time the authorities here have formally acknowledged their arrest. They had previously been picked up by the country's secretive intelligence agencies.
The three were identified as Shoaib Mughal, Shahid Hussain and Humbal Akhtar.
Islamabad Police Deputy Inspector General Bin Yamin said they would soon be charged in court with terrorism offenses.
He did give specifics, but terrorism crimes can be punished by death in Pakistan. It was unclear if the men had been appointed lawyers yet.
Yamin described them as having "militant minds'' and a strong hatred for America.
Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, who lived in Connecticut, has pleaded guilty to terrorism and weapons charges in the United States in connection with the botched bombing.
Yamin said the three suspects had close ties to the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban, a militant group based in the northwest that has claimed responsibility for the plot.
He said the three helped Shahzad to travel to the northwest and meet militant leaders there. They also sent him $13,000 in the United States when he ran of money, he said.
Intelligence officers have said that up to five people were being held in connection with the plot. It is unclear what will happen to the other two.
The FBI said Shahzad had traveled to Pakistan for bomb training. But when he attempted to set off the Times Square bomb by lighting the fuse, the device failed.
Intelligence officers have previously said they had evidence Mughal uploaded video and audio messages from the Pakistan Taliban, including two audio messages from the group's commander, Hakimullah Mehsud, soon after the attack.
An officer has said Mughal was a computer engineer who had a large computer dealership in Islamabad.
Akhtar's wife said soon after his detention that he had graduated from a private university in Islamabad and worked briefly for the government before starting a graphic design business. She said he had no connection to terrorism.
Ashraf's arrest was announced the same evening the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan issued a warning saying that his catering company, Hanif Rajput Catering Service, was suspected of ties to terrorist groups. The firm had previously catered events for the embassy.
"I just say I want to say thank God that my son is back with me with full dignity and honor,'' said his father, Rana Ashraf Khan, who has long maintained his innocence.