The South Asia Channel
Daily brief: evidence for Taliban role in Times Square plot growing
A melting pot Reversing initial statements, U.S. officials said yesterday that the possibility is growing that the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militant group played a role in Faisal Shahzad’s failed attempt to bomb Times Square on Saturday night, though one cautioned "there are no smoking guns yet" (NYT). Pakistani officials said Shahzad received explosives training at a ...
A melting pot
Reversing initial statements, U.S. officials said yesterday that the possibility is growing that the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militant group played a role in Faisal Shahzad’s failed attempt to bomb Times Square on Saturday night, though one cautioned "there are no smoking guns yet" (NYT). Pakistani officials said Shahzad received explosives training at a camp run by Qari Hussain and was taken to South Waziristan by a "lead member" of Jaish-e-Muhammad, a Punjabi militant organization whose first focus was India but in recent years has dissolved into smaller cells, many of which are now aligned with the TTP (Times, WSJ, WSJ). Another Pakistani official said Shahzad had traveled to North Waziristan (Guardian).
CNN reports that Shahzad allegedly carried out a dry run of his plan on Friday, but on the day of the attack, accidentally left the keys to his getaway car in the Nissan Pathfinder that he believed was about to explode in Times Square on Saturday evening (CNN). He then took the train back to Connecticut.
One of the men arrested in Pakistan in connection with Shahzad’s arrest is Muhammad Rehan, a supposed Jaish activist, who allegedly drove Shahzad to Peshawar last July (LAT, FT). More than a dozen people have been nabbed across Pakistan, most reportedly involved with Jaish and a Sunni sectarian group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (WSJ, Daily Times). Shahzad’s parents and other close relatives have reportedly "gone underground," vacating their homes in Peshawar and Nowshera (Daily Times, McClatchy).
Speculation about Shahzad’s motives for planning the failed attack is rife, as a Pakistani security official said he was "angry because of the drones" which are used to strike targets in Pakistan’s tribal regions, a sentiment echoed by Pakistan’s foreign minister (FT, ET). As more portraits of Shahzad and his family emerge, his friends say he became "more reserved and more religious" over the past year, though many were in disbelief at his involvement with militancy (NYT, AP, McClatchy, Independent). His wife, Huma Mian, was born in Colorado and summered in Pakistan, reportedly speaks French and Urdu, and comes from an educated family, as does Shahzad (AP). MSNBC published Shahzad’s resume yesterday (MSNBC).
Shahzad, who reportedly told the officers who arrested him on an airplane that was headed to Dubai "What took you so long? I was expecting this. Are you FBI or NYPD?", has waived his right to a speedy arraignment and is reported to be cooperating with investigators (CBS, NYT). The U.S. is planning to give Pakistan a detailed request for help with the case, and Homeland Security officials told airlines to speed up their checks of new names added to no-fly lists (Wash Post,Tel).
The LA Times reports on the CIA’s secret permission to strike a broader range of targets with drones in northwest Pakistan, which allows the Agency to strike suspected militants without knowing their full identities, based on "pattern of life" analysis (LAT). "We might not always have their names, but … these are people whose actions over time have made it obvious that they are a threat," said a senior U.S. counterterrorism official.
In Orakzai agency, Taliban militants cut off the hands of three alleged thieves, and the men were later transferred to Kohat for treatment (Daily Times, Dawn). And the AP looks at the relationship between politicians and militants in Pakistan’s Punjab province (AP).
The ‘Asian Tigers,’ a previously unknown militant group in Waziristan, have reportedly turned over custody of the former ISI officer and the journalist kidnapped in late March to the Haqqani network, reportedly under pressure from the ‘Afghan Taliban’ (ET). A third hostage, Khalid Khawaja, was founded dead in North Waziristan late last month.
To be hanged
Muhammad Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving gunman of the deadly November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, was sentenced to death by hanging earlier today after being convicted of murder and waging war against India on Monday (AJE, Wash Post, AP, BBC, AFP, ToI, CNN). Kasab, who was reportedly "ashen" and wept when the sentence was announced, can appeal to a higher court and then the Supreme Court, and can also appeal to the Indian president for mercy; he could be on death row for years.
Karzai comes to Washington
Just days before Afghan President Hamid Karzai comes calling in Washington, the GAO released a report finding that more than 21,000 "enemy-initiated attacks" were recorded in Afghanistan in 2009, a 75 percent increase over 2008, and attributed the Taliban’s "resilience" to several factors, including ineffective governance, a porous border, and funding from the narcotics trade (McClatchy). The full report is available here (GAO-pdf). McClatchy and Reuters look ahead to Karzai’s visit, and Reuters considers some of the financial costs of the Afghan war (Reuters, McClatchy, Reuters).
The Taliban have ordered cell phone companies in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz to shut down their towers at night, claiming international forces were using militants’ signals to track them (Reuters). Four major companies are forced to abide by the stipulation (Pajhwok).
On Monday, the Afghan Midwives Association hosted the sixth annual conference allowing the midwives to gather and share tips (Pajhwok). 350 registered midwives attended.