Terrorist returns from grave, claims responsibility for botched NYC bombing
Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud – who until last week was believed to have been killed in a US drone attack in north-western Pakistan in January – made a video appearance on Monday, taking responsibility for an attempted car bombing in New York City over the weekend and threatening more attacks to come.
The audio confession showing Mehsud, the leader of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was uploaded to the Internet by the SITE Intelligence Group on Monday, one day after Sunday’s failed car bomb attack in the heart of New York City.
According to the transcript released by SITE, the videos contain English subtitles and carry the mark of Umar Studio, the so-called public relations branch of TTP.
Hakimullah Mehsud, who took charge of TTP in August 2009 after Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan, allegedly recorded a video on April 19 and released it on May 2, stating that, “From now on, the main target of our fedayeen are American cities. The good news will be heard within some days or weeks. Today onwards, the direction of our Jehad [sic] is American states and cities.”
"The time is very near when our fedayeen (fighters) will attack the American states in their major cities," another speaker in the nine-minute video continued. "Our fedayeen have penetrated the terrorist America, we will give extremely painful blows to the fanatic America."
A suspect in the failed car bombing, Faisal Shahzad, 30, was arrested as he attempted to depart on a flight to Dubai. Arresting officers entered the plane and arrested Shahzad just minutes before it was scheduled to depart for Dubai.
The bomb – inside of a Nissan Pathfinder with its engine running and hazard lights flashing – was dismantled before it could explode, after a street-vendor noticed smoke emitting from the vehicle and alerted police.
Times Square is regularly packed with people at all hours of the day.
Meanwhile, New York police on Sunday released CCTV footage of a man leaving the scene of the attempted car bombing after appearing to change his shirt. They are asking any witnesses to contact police with any information they may have of the individual.
Mehsud survival a “miracle”
In February, US intelligence officials and Afghan sources told CNN that Mehsud had been killed in the January drone strike. But Azam Tariq, the spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, had always denied reports of Mehsud's death.
Some terrorism experts say the video reveals a new course for Mehsud and his TTP, which was specifically founded in December 2007 to “bring down the Pakistani state.” Today, the terrorist group is showing special interest in American targets, and considering the fate of Afghanistan, whose Taliban forces were responsible for harboring Osama bin Laden, the alleged 9/11 mastermind, Pakistan is certainly watching these unfolding events with great interest.
“The TTP has shifted at least some resources from targeting primarily Pakistani interests to focusing on American targets,” according to the American Enterprise Institute’s “Critical Threats” website. “The December 30, 2009 attack on the CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, and the April 5, 2010 attack on the US consulate in Peshawar, in part, demonstrate the results of such shifts.”
Meanwhile, other terrorism experts are skeptical of TTP’s claim of responsibility in Sunday’s failed bombing, saying the group has in the past falsely claimed responsibility for attacks.
“By releasing the two videos immediately after taking credit for the Times Square attack suggests that TTP is desperate for recognition and quite possibly unaffiliated with the event itself,” one investigating officer told RT. “Had they control over the logistics of this thing, they would have wanted the word on the street in advance to lend credence to their claims.”
The officer went on to say that if TTP was really behind the botched attack, it revealed a high level of disorganization.
“This is clearly the work of a haphazard organization,” he said.
Investigators have found no sign that the failed car bombing was linked to al-Qaeda or any other well-known terrorist group, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters on Sunday.
"There is no evidence that this is tied in with Al-Qaeda or any other big terrorist organization," he said.
Hakimullah Mehsud got the attention of US intelligence officials when he appeared in a video alongside Humam Al Balawi, the Jordanian doctor-turned-suicide-bomber who killed seven CIA agents in eastern Afghanistan in December last year inside an American intelligence-gathering facility.
Another video, featuring an audio message purported to be by Al Balawi, appeared on radical militant Islamist websites on Friday. The visible text in the video claimed the message was recorded the night before his attack against the CIA agents in Afghanistan.
From South Park to South Waziristan?
US investigators into Saturday’s failed attack are still examining a possible connection with threats made against the creators of an animated television series, which apparently has drawn the ire of some Muslim viewers.
Last month, the Revolution Muslim website carried a posting that warned the creators of “South Park,” Matt Stone and Trey Parker, that they risked reprisals after a recent episode featured Muhammad dressed in a bear suit.
Islam strictly forbids any depiction or rendering of the Prophet.
In 2004, Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh, who made a controversial film about Islamic culture, was stabbed and shot dead in Amsterdam.
On another occasion, in December 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a series of 12 highly provocaticartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed. The newspaper announced that it was attempting to contribute to the debate regarding criticism of Islam, which is becoming a rising force on the European continent, and self-censorship, something the paper says it refuses to do.
Hamshahri, Iran’s largest newspaper, announced its own “cartoon contest” at the time with a theme highly offensive to Western sensitivities with a challenge for a Western publication to publish them. None took them up on the offer.