By Nicole Bode
DNAinfo Senior Editor
MANHATTAN — Admitted would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad spent more than eight months accumulating the tools and the knowledge he needed to carry out a massive attack on the US.
Yet, at nearly every stage, the plot by the college-educated recent convert to religious extremism was riddled with key errors, resulting in a failed bombing that was promptly disowned by the Pakistan Taliban group, which authorities now believe was behind the attack.
According to the criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors as well as emerging news reports, Shahzad took great pains to get everything right.
He spent five months in Pakistan from fall 2009 to February 2010, reportedly training in bomb-making at the feet of the Taliban. He purchased a gun, reportedly a Kel-Tec, by successfully clearing the 14-day waiting period. He used a pre-paid cellphone to contact the owner of a cheap, used Nissan Pathfinder he would later fill with bomb materials and attempt to detonate on West 45th Street.
He drove to Pennsylvania to purchase dozens of M-80 fireworks to use as the ignition for his bomb. And he made two trips into Times Square in the days before the bombing, first scouting out the place to detonate his car bomb and then returning day before the bombing to park his getaway car 8 blocks away.
But when the time came to carry out the plan on Saturday, May 1, Shahzad’s house of cards crumbled to the ground.
As he parked the car on West 45th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, something prompted Shahzad to stray from his plan, starting when he left the engine running with the keys in the ignition.
Attached to the keyring was the car key to his getaway car, an Isuzu, and the key to his apartment in Bridgeport, Conn., the Associated Press reported.
Shahzad had to take the Metro-North railroad back home Saturday night and call his landlord to let him into his apartment.
"He said he was hanging out with a friend in New York and he must have lost the key somewhere," Stanislaw Chomiak told the Associated Press.
The bomb itself was foiled by a set of eagle-eyed street vendors on West 45th Street, who called over the police as soon as the SUV began to emit white smoke from the rear. The NYPD’s bomb squad defused the bomb, and quickly tracked the car back to its original owner, a 19-year-old college student who gave police Shahzad’s phone number and a physical description.
Lab tests showed the 100 pounds of fertilizer Shahzad used to make the bomb were the non-explosive variety. And the owner of the fireworks store where Shahzad purchased his would-be bomb fuses said the amount of explosive material inside each stick was less than the contents of a single aspirin, the Associated Press reported.
“The M88 he used wouldn't damage a watermelon," Bruce Zoldan, the owner of Phantom Fireworks, told the AP. "Thank goodness he used that."
It was enough to make the Taliban cringe.
After initially releasing a video claiming responsibility for the May 1st bombing, a spokesman for the terrorist group told CBS News Thursday that Shahzad was not one of their members.
"This is a noble job and we pray that all the Muslim youths should follow Faisal Shahzad," Azam Tariq told a reporter. "But he is not part of our network."