Daily brief: NYC bomb suspect admits training in Waziristan

A "liberal-looking young man" In a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in New York (available here), the federal government charged alleged failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad on several terrorism-related counts, including the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction (FBI, NYT, AJE, Times). Shahzad reportedly cooperated with investigators before and after being read his ...

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

A "liberal-looking young man"

In a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in New York (available here), the federal government charged alleged failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad on several terrorism-related counts, including the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction (FBI, NYT, AJE, Times). Shahzad reportedly cooperated with investigators before and after being read his Miranda rights, and confessed not only to attempting to execute the bomb plot but also undergoing explosives training in the Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan during a recent 5-month stay in Pakistan (WSJ, Independent, MSNBC, WSJ).

Shahzad's claim that he received training in Pakistan's tribal areas, as well as phone calls he received from Pakistan in the days before the attack, has reportedly led investigators to focus on the potential role of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and other Pakistani militant groups in the attacks (Wash Post, AFP, Telegraph). While the TTP's claims of having perpetrated the attack were initially seen as dubious, some investigators are now calling the connection "a leading theory," and the revelation that Shahzad may have trained in Pakistan has led to speculation that the U.S. government will put increased pressure on the country to go after militants, especially in North Waziristan (Wash Post, Dawn).

A "liberal-looking young man"

In a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in New York (available here), the federal government charged alleged failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad on several terrorism-related counts, including the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction (FBI, NYT, AJE, Times). Shahzad reportedly cooperated with investigators before and after being read his Miranda rights, and confessed not only to attempting to execute the bomb plot but also undergoing explosives training in the Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan during a recent 5-month stay in Pakistan (WSJ, Independent, MSNBC, WSJ).

Shahzad’s claim that he received training in Pakistan’s tribal areas, as well as phone calls he received from Pakistan in the days before the attack, has reportedly led investigators to focus on the potential role of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and other Pakistani militant groups in the attacks (Wash Post, AFP, Telegraph). While the TTP’s claims of having perpetrated the attack were initially seen as dubious, some investigators are now calling the connection "a leading theory," and the revelation that Shahzad may have trained in Pakistan has led to speculation that the U.S. government will put increased pressure on the country to go after militants, especially in North Waziristan (Wash Post, Dawn).

Hakimullah Mehsud, the recently revived leader of the TTP, reportedly wrote a letter to the sister of Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist convicted of attempted murder in a U.S. court, threatening attacks on Pakistan and the U.S. in retaliation for her detention (AP, Dawn). Pakistani officials remain skeptical of a TTP link to the Times Square attack (AP).

In response to Shahzad’s arrest, Pakistan arrested several people, including two Karachi men suspected of being in phone contact with Shahzad and several members of his extended family in multiple cities (FT, Dawn, Daily Times, LAT, Express Tribune).  Several profiles carried new details about Shahzad, painting the picture of a loner educated in the United States with a wife and two children, whose house in Connecticut was foreclosed last summer, prompting the family to leave for Pakistan (WSJ, NYT, LAT). Shahzad, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen last year, has been in the United States for much of the last 10 years. Shahzad is the son of a former high-ranking Pakistani Air Force officer, and Dawn reports that people who knew him as a younger man described him as a "liberal-looking young man" who showed no signs of ties to militant groups (Dawn).

Many are raising questions about how Shahzad was able to board an Emirates Airline flight to Dubai despite having been placed on a no-fly list nearly 12 hours earlier (Wash Post, Newsweek, BBC, Times, NYT). It appears that an FBI surveillance team that had tracked Shahzad to Connecticut lost sight of him on his way to JFK Airport in New York, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference that, "Clearly, the guy was on the plane and shouldn’t have been. And we got very lucky" (WSJ).

High-value target?

The United States is reportedly pursuing a new and expanded strategy for drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, one that targets low- and medium-level al-Qaeda and Taliban officials and infrastructure (CNN). The aim of the new strategy, put in place at the end of George W. Bush’s presidency, is to target fighters actively engaged in combat against U.S. forces, rather than just leaders.

Too much death

An Afghan tribal elder was killed Tuesday in Kandahar, in the latest attack against tribal leaders claimed by Taliban forces (AP). Further complicating preparations for the expected operations in the southern Afghan province is the insistence among many NATO commanders that Afghan forces take the lead in clearing the Taliban; these forces are often unprepared to lead missions, with important operations sometimes scrapped as a result (Reuters). And Afghan police repulsed an attack on the Nimroz provincial governor’s compound, killing up to five would-be suicide bombers while losing several police officers (AP, Dawn, Pajhwok, Reuters). A provincial council member was killed, and the Taliban attackers were reportedly wearing Afghan National Police uniforms (AP).

22 Kabul schoolgirls and three teachers were hospitalized Tuesday after they were reportedly exposed to poisonous gas, the fourth such attack on a girls’ school in recent weeks and the first in Afghanistan’s capital (Reuters). Both Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban have condemned the attacks, though girls’ schools were shuttered under the Taliban.

No booze for you

One possible outcome of the recent spat between Kabul and Washington is that it is getting harder for expats to buy alcohol in Afghanistan (LAT). Alcohol is technically illegal in Afghanistan, though police have only recently begun raiding restaurants catering to foreigners that serve alcohol, seizing the illicit hooch and sometimes arresting employees.

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