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May 8th, 2010

Pakistan Probes Shahzad Link to Taliban Leaders

U.S. alleges NYC plotter met with key militant commanders, Islamabad says

Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, above, may have sent Times Square bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad to stage his group’s first attack on the U.S. (Photo credit: Naseer Mehsud / AFP — Getty Images)

May 8, 2010

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan is investigating whether a Pakistani-American arrested over a botched plot to bomb New York’s Times Square met top Pakistani Taliban leaders in their stronghold in the northwest, a minister said Saturday.

Pakistani investigators were trying to verify information provided by the United States that the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, 30, had visited South Waziristan, a militant bastion near the Afghan border where the Pakistani military launched an offensive late last year, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said.

“Today we received a formal request from them in which they have given the details of the charges according to which Shahzad has been visiting South Waziristan and meeting Qari Hussain and Hakimullah Mehsud,” Rehman told reporters, referring to two Pakistani Taliban commanders. “But it all needs confirmation.”

The Pakistani Taliban last Sunday claimed responsibility for the attempted car bomb attack the previous day, but a spokesman for the militants on Thursday denied links with Shahzad.

Mehsud is the head of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, while Hussain is referred to as the mentor of the Pakistani Taliban suicide bombers.

First attack on U.S.?

If confirmed that the Taliban in Pakistan sponsored the attempted bombing in New York, it would be the group’s first involvement in an attack on U.S. soil.

That would also put Pakistan under renewed U.S. pressure to intensify its crackdown on the militants.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton … said the United States had warned Pakistan of “severe consequences” if a successful attack in America was traced back to Pakistan.

Mehsud was widely believed to have been killed in a missile strike by a pilotless CIA drone aircraft in January, but he appeared in a video posted on the internet last week in which he threatened revenge suicide strikes in U.S. cities.

Hussain also appeared in a separate tape posted on the same day taking responsibility for the attack in the United States “with pride and valor,” apparently referring to the Times Square incident.

Ties to al-Qaida

The New York police at the time said there was no evidence to support Taliban claim. Malik said on Thursday he thought it unlikely that Shahzad acted alone.

Pakistani security officials say Shahzad, who is suspected of driving an explosives-laden SUV into Times Square, was close to Jaish-e-Mohammad, a group fighting Indian forces in the disputed Kashmir region. The group also has ties to al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban. …

Shahzad has told investigators that he trained in the lawless tribal areas of Waziristan, where both al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban operate, but that he came up with the attack plan himself. …

Full story


Related reports on this site

Times Square Taliban Link (May 7, 2010)

New York Bomb Suspect Arrested (May 3, 2010)

Image: Suspect Faisal Shahzad

Times Square Bomb Plot Suspects (May 2, 2010)

(Left) New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly speaks about car bomb in Times Square, beside surveillance video still of dark SUV loaded with bomb (circled in red) (© Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly speaks about car bomb in Times Square (left), beside surveillance video still of dark SUV loaded with bomb (right, circled in red). (Photo credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Bomb Scare in Times Square (May 1, 2010)

Slide presentation
Image: Times Square is void of pedestrians
Times Square targeted
Police defused a crudely made car bomb found in a SUV parked in New York’s Times Square.

Al-Qaida’s Next High-Value Target (Jan. 18, 2010)

The White House roof in all its glory

Taliban Leader Vows Revenge (Oct. 5, 2009)

Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud speaks to reporters in Mamouzi, Pakistan, in 2008. (Photo credit: AFP — Getty Images / File)

White House Attack Will ‘Amaze’ (March 31, 2009)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — May 8, 2009

Image: Iraqi soldiers patrol Baghdad street
Iraqi soldiers patrol a street during an operation in Baghdad’s al-Fadhil district in March 2009. (Photo credit: Mohammed Ameen / Reuters file)

Iraqi Security Forces Stumbling

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that Iraq’s security forces, despite significant improvements, remained hobbled by shortages of men and equipment, bureaucracy, corruption, political interference, and security breaches that have resulted in the deaths of dozens of Iraqi and American troops.

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