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All Eyes Turn To Pakistan In Times Square Investigation

by @ 8:20 am on May 6, 2010. Filed under Foreign Affairs, Homeland Security, Pakistan, War On Terror

It’s increasingly apparent that the Pakistani Taliban was indeed behind the attempted bombing of Times Square:

WASHINGTON — American officials said Wednesday that it was very likely that a radical group once thought unable to attack the United States had played a role in the bombing attempt in Times Square, elevating concerns about whether other militant groups could deliver at least a glancing blow on American soil.

Officials said that after two days of intense questioning of the bombing suspect, Faisal Shahzad, evidence was mounting that the group, the Pakistani Taliban, had helped inspire and train Mr. Shahzad in the months before he is alleged to have parked an explosives-filled sport utility vehicle in a busy Manhattan intersection on Saturday night. Officials said Mr. Shahzad had discussed his contacts with the group, and investigators had accumulated other evidence that they would not disclose.

On Wednesday, Mr. Shahzad, the 30-year-old son of a retired senior Pakistani Air Force officer, waived his right to a speedy arraignment, a possible sign of his continuing cooperation with investigators.

As his interrogation continued, Department of Homeland Security officials directed airlines to speed up their checks of new names added to the no-fly list, a requirement that might have prevented Mr. Shahzad from boarding a flight to Dubai on Monday night before his arrest at Kennedy International Airport.

The failed attack has produced a flurry of other proposals to tighten security procedures, including calls by members of Congress to more closely scrutinize passengers who buy tickets with cash, as Mr. Shahzad did. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Senator Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, proposed stripping terrorism suspects of American citizenship, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg asked Congress to block the sale of firearms and explosives to those on terrorist watch lists.

American officials, speaking about the continuing inquiry only on condition of anonymity, gave few details about what Mr. Shahzad had told investigators, and said their understanding of the plot would evolve as a dragnet spanning two continents gathered more evidence.

One senior Obama administration official cautioned that “there are no smoking guns yet” that the Pakistani Taliban had directed the Times Square bombing. But others said that there were strong indications that Mr. Shahzad knew some members of the group and that they probably had a role in training him.

In a video on Sunday, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing.

One issue that investigators are vigorously pursuing is who provided Mr. Shahzad cash to buy the S.U.V. and his plane ticket to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. “Somebody’s financially sponsoring him, and that’s the link we’re pursuing,” one official said. “And that would take you on the logic train back to Pak-Taliban authorizations,” the official said, referring to the group.

Indeed.

The question, of course, is what we do if it turns out that these connections are found to exist. We’ve been treating Pakistan with kid gloves for years now despite mounting evidence that the Afghan Taliban, and indeed al Qaeda itself, was taking refuge in it’s border regions, and despite evidence of connections between those groups and some elements of Pakistan’s intelligence services. If it turns out that yet another terrorist group based in Pakistan is targeting the United States, will our Pakistani “friends” do what needs to be done to stop them ?

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