NEW YORK (AP) — The Pakistani immigrant who tried to detonate a car bomb on a busy Saturday night in Times Square accepted a life sentence with a smirk Tuesday and warned that Americans can expect more bloodshed at the hands of Muslims.
“Brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun,” 31-year-old Faisal Shahzad told a federal judge. “Consider me the first droplet of the blood that will follow.”
His punishment for building the propane-and-gasoline bomb and driving it into the heart of the city in an SUV in May was a foregone conclusion, since the charges to which he pleaded guilty carried a mandatory life sentence, which under federal rules will keep him behind bars until he dies.
But the former budget analyst from Connecticut used the courtroom appearance to rail against the U.S., saying the country will continue to pay for occupying Muslim countries.
“We are only Muslims trying to defend our religion, people, homes and land, but if you call us terrorists, then we are proud terrorists and we will keep on terrorizing you until you leave our lands and people at peace,” he told U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum.
Shahzad — brought into the courtroom in handcuffs, and wearing a long beard and white skullcap — had instructed his attorney not to speak, and Cedarbaum told prosecutors she didn’t need to hear from them.
That left the two free to spar over his reasoning for giving up his comfortable life in America to train in Pakistan and carry out an attack authorities say could have killed an untold number of pedestrians.
“You appear to be someone who was capable of education and I do hope you will spend some of the time in prison thinking carefully about whether the Quran wants you to kill lots of people,” Cedarbaum said.
Shahzad responded that the “Quran gives us the right to defend. And that’s all I’m doing.”
The judge cut him off at one point to ask if he had sworn allegiance to the U.S. when he became a citizen last year.
“I did swear, but I did not mean it,” Shahzad said.
In his address to the court, he said Osama bin Laden “will be known as no less than Saladin of the 21st-century crusade” — a reference to the Muslim hero of the Crusades. He also said: “If I’m given 1,000 lives, I will sacrifice them all.”
Shahzad smirked when the judge imposed the sentence. Asked if he had any final words, he said, “I’m happy with the deal that God has given me.”
Afterward, the head of the FBI’s New York office, Janice K. Fedarcyk, cited evidence that Shahzad hoped to strike more than once.
“Shahzad built a mobile weapon of mass destruction and hoped and intended that it would kill large numbers of innocent people and planned to do it again two weeks later,” Fedarcyk said in a statement. “The sentence imposed today means Shahzad will never pose that threat again.”
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called Shahzad a “remorseless terrorist who betrayed his adopted country.”
“We have to be concerned about homegrown terrorists given recent events. We’re working as hard as we can to make sure we don’t have another event like that,” Bharara said.
White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said the administration was pleased with the sentencing.
“We tried the case in a civilian court, we were able to use everything that he said and everything that we uncovered for intelligence collection purposes,” he said. “His trial served no propaganda purpose for al-Qaida, and only underscored the strength of our justice system.”
Calling himself a Muslim soldier, Shahzad pleaded guilty in June to 10 terrorism and weapons counts. He said the Pakistan Taliban provided him with more than $15,000 and five days of explosives training late last year and early this year, months after he became a U.S. citizen.
For greatest impact, he chose a crowded a section of Times Square by studying an online streaming video of the so-called Crossroads of the World, prosecutors said.
On May 1, he lit the fuse of his crude bomb packed in a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder, then walked away, pausing to listen for the explosion that never came, court papers said. A street vendor spotted smoke coming from the SUV and alerted police, who quickly cleared the area.
The bomb attempt set off an intense investigation that culminated two days later with investigators plucking Shahzad off a Dubai-bound plane at a New York airport.
Prosecutors introduced a dramatic videotape of an FBI-staged explosion in a Pennsylvania field that they said demonstrated how deadly Shahzad’s bomb could have been.
The FBI’s car bomb — a 1993 Pathfinder fitted with 250 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and diesel fuel, three 25-pound propane tanks and two five-gallon gasoline canisters — blew up with a force that ripped the sport utility vehicle in half.
The explosion caused a giant fireball that overturned and shredded four other cars parked nearby, obliterated about a dozen dummies and shot fiery debris hundreds of feet in all directions.
Associated Press Writer Erica Werner in Washington contributed to this report.