A Pakistani-American warned Americans “the war with the Muslims has just begun”, as he was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison for a botched attempt to bomb New York’s famed Times Square.
“The defeat of the US is imminent and will happen in the near future,” Faisal Shahzad told the court shortly before his sentence was announced.
“Brace yourselves because the war with the Muslims has just begun,” he said.
Shahzad, a US citizen who lived in Connecticut and started what resembled an ordinary American family before embracing jihadist militancy, pleaded guilty in June to the May 1 bombing attempt.
The 30-year-old obtained US citizenship in April 2009, but said on Tuesday it was only a ploy.
“Didn’t you swear allegiance to this country?” Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum asked him.
“I sweared, but I didn’t mean it,” Shahzad replied.
The bomb scare and revelations that the Taliban inside Pakistan were behind the attack further strained US-Pakistani relations, while deepening worries in the United States about so-called homegrown terrorists.
Shahzad was defiant in court, claiming to have committed the crime in revenge for bombing by US drones in Pakistan.
“Far from providing an explanation for his criminal activity, Shahzad’s history and characteristics strongly militate in favour of the maximum available sentence,” assistant US attorney Randall Jackson said in court papers ahead of the sentencing hearing.
The bombing attempt failed when the crude device, left in an SUV parked outside a theatre on a warm Saturday evening, fizzled without igniting.
The entire operation was characterised by extreme amateurishness, with the bomber having to escape on foot because he left the keys to a second getaway car – and those to his apartment – inside the vehicle with the bomb.
But officials say that the bomb, had it gone off, would have caused carnage in one of New York’s busiest neighbourhoods.
FBI officials later recreated the device in an empty field to demonstrate the fiery explosion they said could have occurred.
Prosecutors say that Shahzad boasted he expected to kill at least 40 people and that he had also planned to set off a second explosion, had he not been caught after the first.
According to prosecutors, he admitted using internet webcam sites to monitor Times Square and see when and where a bomb would be most likely to cause bloodshed.
The car bomb was discovered smoking by a street vendor who alerted police.
Once the teeming area had been cleared, police dismantled the device and launched a frantic manhunt, only catching the bomber 53 hours later, just after he’d boarded a plane preparing to leave from JFK Airport to Dubai.
The son of a Pakistani air force officer, Shahzad came to the United States to study at the age of 18 and in 2009 became a naturalised American citizen.
Living in the suburbs of New York City, he worked as a financial analyst and married another Pakistani-American, raising two children. But he says he became disillusioned with his estrangement from Islam and upset at what he considered humiliation of Muslims worldwide.
In a 40-minute Taliban video released by the US government, Shahzad, wearing traditional clothes and carrying an automatic rifle and a Koran, calls for war against the West to avenge what he refers to as downtrodden Muslims.
“You will see the Muslim war has just started, until Islam spreads war over the whole world,” he threatens in the video, whose authenticity could not be independently confirmed. “Our way is with the sword.”
The video was apparently shot while Shahzad was receiving training in Taliban-friendly regions in Pakistan over the previous year, before coming back to Connecticut and gathering materials for the bomb.