NEW YORK (AP)—Terror can come cheap.
Confessed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad appears to have financed his failed plot with a wad of $100 bills, but the amount of money needed to execute the scheme was fairly modest.
His car bomb was relatively cheap, too: $1,300 for a rusting 1993 Nissan Pathfinder and the cost of some firecrackers and tanks of gasoline and propane.
Shahzad, who seemed to have paid cash for many and maybe all of his purchases, bought himself a Kel-Tec rifle, which sells for around $400, but skimped on luxuries.
The 30-year-old slept on an air mattress in a sparsely furnished apartment, and, according to one account, tried to get a job at a jewelry store where he had worked as a young college student.
Shahzad's finances are under scrutiny, as authorities try to learn whether he got cash from a terror group.
A law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday that investigators had identified and were looking for a person who helped courier money to Shahzad from an overseas source. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.
Matthew Levitt, a former U.S. Treasury intelligence official, now a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the fact that Shahzad paid for the car and plane ticket in cash, sometimes using $100 bills, was a "red flag."
The money trail, he said, may provide valuable clues as to whether Shahzad had any help.
Yet the bombing plan, as described by authorities, appears to have been simple enough that even a single person or a small group with limited means could stage this sort of attack.
Shahzad's rent from mid-February to the start of May, his two airline tickets, gun and vehicle purchases appear to total less than $7,000. The actual bomb components - fertilizer, propane tanks, and a few boxes of cheap firecrackers - were even cheaper, maybe a few hundred dollars at most.
"You don't need to have a lot of money to put together a bomb. It's all relative to what you want to make," said Leo W. West, a retired FBI explosives expert. He noted that a more sophisticated device containing exotic chemicals would have been more expensive.
Prosecutors said that on May 1, Shahzad tried to detonate an SUV filled with flammable materials in Times Square. The vehicle smoldered, but didn't explode. He was arrested after investigators traced him through the SUV's previous owner.
Shahzad is in federal custody. Authorities said he is coopering with investigators. He has yet to be arraigned. The whereabouts of his wife and children has not been made public, but they are believed to be living overseas.
Born in Pakistan, Shahzad spent more than a decade in the U.S., going to school, working and starting a family, before moving back to Pakistan last spring.
Shahzad has been characterized as being in money trouble when he left the U.S., but records and interviews suggest he still had resources.
He came from a well-to-do family. In America, he held a steady white-collar job as a budget analyst for years - a job he only gave up when he left the country.
Until that departure, there was no trail of lawsuits or missed payments indicating he was in trouble. In fact, his financial history was clean enough that Wachovia Bank gave him a $65,000 home equity line in January 2009.