“U.S. and Pakistani investigators are giving increased credence to links between Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad and the Pakistan Taliban, with one senior Pakistani official saying Mr. Shahzad received instruction from the Islamist group’s suicide-bomb trainer.
If the links are verified, it would mark a stark shift in how the Pakistan Talibanâ€”an affiliate of the Taliban in Afghanistanâ€”and related jihadist groups in Pakistan pursue their goals. Until now, they have focused on attacks within Pakistan and in India, not the U.S.
…Pakistani investigators also are probing Mr. Shahzad’s possible connections with Jaish-e-Muhammad, an outlawed Islamist militant group, after the arrest Tuesday of Tohaid Ahmed and Mohammed Rehan in Karachi. A senior Pakistani government official said the two men were believed to have links to Jaish. Mr. Ahmed had been in email contact with Mr. Shahzad; Mr. Rehan took Mr. Shahzad to South Waziristan, the official said.
There, Mr. Shahzad received training in explosives in a camp run by Qari Hussain, the official said. Mr. Hussain is a senior commander with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistan Taliban’s formal name, and trains suicide bombers, the official said. Mr. Hussain is also a cousin of Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistan Taliban’s chief. The 30-year-old Mr. Shahzad has admitted to investigators that he received training from militants in Waziristan, U.S. officials said.
…U.S. and British intelligence officials estimate that about 100 Westerners have in recent years taken advantage of lengthy trips to the region to complete training at jihadi camps in Pakistan and returned to their home countries, according to Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. That figure includes Najibullah Zazi and David Headley, who recently pleaded guilty in the U.S. in terror cases, and numerous British terror plotters. It also includes Mr. Shahzad, who told border officials in February 2010, upon returning to New York City, that he had been visiting his ailing father in Pakistan.
The size of American and British populations of Pakistani descent is so large that it makes detailed scrutiny of travel overseas difficult. There are more than 200,000 Pakistani-Americans, and more than 400,000 Britons of Pakistani heritage.
…Pakistan’s chief military spokesman, Gen. Athar Abbas, said the Pakistan Taliban was focused on fighting the Pakistan military and did not have the capacity to strike in the U.S. “The Pakistan Taliban is an organization with a local agenda,” Gen. Abbas said. “It’s too far-fetched to say [it] can project itself in countries so far away.”
Mr. Shahzad hailed from a well-known Pakistani family. His father, Bahar ul Haq, retired as air vice marshall of the Pakistan Air Force in 1990; he couldn’t be reached for comment.
…One thing that puzzles U.S. terrorism experts: the lack of sophistication in the planned attack, considering Mr. Hussain’s reputed expertise and emphasis on suicide bombs. One theory is that Mr. Shahzad may not have been fully embraced or fully trained by the Pakistan Taliban, who may have been suspicious of a U.S. citizen seeking training…"
2010-05-08 16:32:58 UTC