Pakistan doubts Taliban Times Square claim
Posted: Wednesday, May 5, 2010 8:01 pm
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s army does not believe the Pakistani Taliban were behind the Times Square bomb attempt as the insurgent group has claimed, a military spokesman said today.
Relatives and friends of the Pakistani-American arrested in New York over the plot expressed surprise at his alleged involvement, saying he came from a respected family in a conservative part of the country and had previously shown no signs of militancy.
Faisal Shahzad, who grew up in Pakistan but left for America at the age of 18, is accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square on Saturday evening. The 30-year-old, who was arrested Monday night in New York, has allegedly told investigators he received explosives training in Waziristan, a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban.
In a video message on Sunday, the Pakistani Taliban said it carried out the attack, in what would be its first known strike outside South Asia. U.S. officials quickly doubted the claim, but Shahzad’s arrest and alleged trip to Waziristan have given it credence.
Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the military’s chief spokesman, said the claim should be “taken with a pinch of salt.”
“Anybody can claim anything, but whether the organization has that kind of reach is questionable. I don’t think they have the capacity to reach the next level,” he said.
The attack may increase pressure on the Pakistani army to launch a new offensive in the northern part of Waziristan, something it has been avoiding until now. U.S. and European officials have long said that many of the terror plots in the West are hatched in the region.
Abbas declined to comment on reports Shahzad had been to Waziristan.
Pakistan intelligence officials say they have detained several people for questioning since Shahzad’s arrest, but it is unclear if any are believed to have involvement in the plot.
One officer said today one of detainees had been arrested from a mosque in Karachi, the country’s largest city where Shahzad is believed to have spent time on his most recent trip to Pakistan last year.
The detainee, who was not identified, has told investigators he traveled to Peshawar, the main city in the northwest, with Shahzad, said the officer, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The Associated Press interviewed several people who knew Shahzad or his family, but none believed he had any links to militant groups.
“His family is very peaceful and they don’t have any link with any political or religious party,” said Syed Ahmad, a relative in the family’s ancestral home in Pabbi district in the northwest.
Published in The Messenger 5.5.10