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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Flashback to May 12: No Taliban link found

Looking at comments in the press today regarding Faisal Shahzad, Attorney General Eric Holder's investigation and Miranda rights for terrorism suspects in the balance, you'd never know the link between Shahzad and the Pakistani Taliban (nevermind the link between Tehrik-e-Taliban and Al Qaeda) was unsubstantiated. In fact, in the pages of the New York Times this substantiation is being forgone. From the Philadelphia Inquirer May 12. Retaliatory drone strikes in the last two paragraphs ...

Pakistan: No Taliban link found in N.Y. plot

By Saeed Shah

McClatchy Newspapers
KARACHI, Pakistan - Pakistani investigators have been unable to find evidence linking Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bombing suspect, with the Pakistani Taliban or other extremist groups, Pakistani security officials said Tuesday. Investigators also have been unable to substantiate Shahzad's reported confession that he received bomb-making training in the country's wild Waziristan region.

The lack of evidence found by investigators stands in contrast to forceful statements by top Obama administration officials linking Shahzad to extremist Pakistani groups.

The prime Pakistani suspect, Muhammad Rehan, was detained last week outside a radical mosque in Karachi after Shahzad was arrested in New York. A member of the banned group Jaish-e-Mohammad, Rehan was the only concrete link found so far between Shahzad, 30, and the extremist underworld in Pakistan.

However, the interrogation of Rehan did not provide any solid link to the Pakistani Taliban or another extremist group, officials said. "We have not found any involvement of Rehan [in the New York attempted bombing]. He didn't introduce Faisal Shahzad to the Pakistani Taliban," said a security official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the issue with journalists. "No Taliban link has come to the fore."

'Intimately involved'
An FBI team that flew into Pakistan after Shahzad was arrested was allowed to question Rehan on Sunday. The investigation continues, and new leads yet could emerge.

In Washington, a U.S. official said there was "information that links Shahzad to the TTP [Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan], and not all of it is coming from him." The official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, cautioned that it still wasn't clear how close a relationship Shahzad had to the Pakistani Taliban.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said on a Sunday talk show that the Pakistani Taliban was "intimately involved" in the attempted blast, and he reiterated his stand Tuesday. Also Tuesday, five senators called for adding Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan to the U.S. terror list.

Still, the government in Islamabad is perplexed and angry at Washington's statements and threats about Shahzad links with the Pakistani Taliban. Officials say they believe the Obama administration is exploiting the issue to apply pressure for a new military offensive in Pakistan's tribal border area with Afghanistan, in the North Waziristan region, where Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, as well as al-Qaeda, are holed up.

Taliban denial

"There are no roots to the case, so how can we trace something back?" the security official asked.

Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen of Pakistani origin, reportedly has told U.S. interrogators that he trained in Waziristan before the May 1 attack in Times Square, according to the U.S. charges against him. The Pakistani Taliban released a video in which its chief trainer of suicide bombers, Qari Hussain, seemed to claim responsibility for the U.S. bombing attempt.

The video said nothing specifically about New York or Shahzad. The Pakistani Taliban's official spokesman, Azam Tariq, has denied that his group was involved with Shahzad. The inept construction of the failed bomb has also raised doubts over whether the Taliban could have trained Shahzad.

The U.S. focus on Pakistan's tribal area continued Tuesday with another missile strike from an American drone aircraft, the third such attack since the failed Times Square bombing. The strike, in North Waziristan, reportedly killed at least 14 suspected extremists.

The Obama administration has unleashed an intensive campaign of drone attacks in the region targeting extremist hideouts in the tribal area.

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