5 Clues From Shahzad's Past

What led him to terrorism?

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Every act of terror raises the same question: What made him do it? Questions of funding and association aside, what in the suspect's life or his beliefs led him to become a terrorist? Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistan-born American citizen who admitted to driving a faulty car bomb into Times Square, is no different. Reporters and commentators are poring through the details of Shahzad's life to try and understand what caused him to attempt the unthinkable.

  • With Money Problems, Desperation  The New York Times' James Barron and Sabrina Tevernase report, "People who knew them, both in Connecticut and in Pakistan, said he had changed in the past year or so, becoming more reserved and more religious as he faced what someone who knows the family well called 'their financial troubles.' Last year, one Pakistani friend said, he even asked his father, Bahar ul-Haq, a retired high-ranking air force pilot in Pakistan, for permission to fight in Afghanistan."
  • 'Struggled' in America  The L.A. Times' Geraldine Baum and Bob Drogin say that "Shahzad struggled to find his place in America, piling up debts and bouncing from one run-down neighborhood to another. ... Records show Shahzad and his wife moved repeatedly during his student days, renting apartments in Bridgeport and the other Connecticut towns of Milford and Norwalk. Neighbors said they spoke little English, and usually kept to themselves."
  • 'It Was Payback'  The New York Post's Bruce Golding makes the leap. "It was payback," he writes, "in retaliation for US drone attacks that wiped out the leadership of his beloved Taliban. ... Sources said he was an eyewitness to the onslaught throughout the eight months he spent in Pakistan beginning last summer." Golding does not explain why the Taliban is "beloved" to Shahzad.
  • Foreclosed Home  The Washington Post's Ezra Klein calls it no coincidence that Shahzad is "a homeowner in the midst of foreclosure." Klein sighs, "it's a reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don't make headlines but do ruin lives." The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg dissents.
  • Not Very Smart  The New Yorker's Steve Coll talks straight. "Fortunately, like one of those Eleven O’clock News bank robbers who tries to rob an A.T.M., only to topple it over on himself, Shahzad’s case may help to illuminate a truth larger than himself: Terrorists are criminals, and the great majority of criminals are prosaic."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.