Taliban denial of links to Shahzad doesn’t match known facts

The top spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has recently denied any links to the failed Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad. From Daily Times:

“We have no connection with Faisal Shahzad,” Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the TTP, told Daily Times over the phone from an undisclosed location. “We don’t know him… we did not train him,” said the Taliban spokesman. “When we do something… we claim responsibility for it.”

I don’t pretend to understand why Tariq would say this, but the evidence at this time doesn’t fit with his statement. The timing of the release of videos by Qari Hussain and Hakeemullah Mehsud is itself pretty damning evidence of Taliban involvement. As I’ve noted numerous times, Qari Hussain’s tape taking credit for the Times Square bombing was pre-recorded, and uploaded to a YouTube site created on April 30, just one day prior to the failed bombing. The video was also uploaded on April 30.

The release of the Qari Hussain tape was followed shortly by the release of two tapes of Hakeemullah Mehsud, who hadn’t been seen or heard from since Jan. 16. Nearly everyone had reported that Hakeemullah was dead (except us here at The Long War Journal). A tape of Hakeemullah alive, in and of itself, is a major story. That it was released within 24 hours of the attack, and followed Qari Hussain’s claim of credit for the attack, was clearly choreographed by the Taliban.

One more thing about the tapes: Tapes of Qari Hussain and Hakeemullah don’t just fall off of trees. Who does Azam Tariq think published those tapes, and why?

There is of course other evidence that points to links to the Taliban, mainly Shahzad’s admission that he trained in Waziristan. Now, ABC News is reporting that Shahzad had close ties to Baitullah Mehsud, the former leader of the Taliban, and apparently also to Anwar al Awlaki (which is not surprising):

Accused Times Square Bomber Faisal Shahzad linked up with the Pakistani Taliban through the internet, ABC News has been told by law enforcement and intelligence sources close to the investigation. Once the Taliban identified him as more valuable in the U.S. than in Pakistan,

But according to these sources, Shahzad also had a web of jihadist contacts that included big names tied to terror attacks in the U.S. and abroad, including the figure who has emerged as a central figure in many recent domestic terror attempts – radical American-born Muslim cleric Anwar Awlaki.

Besides Awlaki, sources say Shahzad was also linked to a key figure in the Pakistani Taliban, its Emir Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a drone missile strike in 2009. The Mehsuds had been family friends of Shahzad, who is the son of a former high-ranking Pakistani military officer.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • BraddS says:

    So the TTP wants all the benefits of terrorism (“there will be more”) and none of the responsibility (“we didn’t do it”)?!?

  • Ben says:

    Bill –
    Any more comments on the Jaish connection? I found it interesting that there are links to a mosque frequently visited by Masood Azhar; I always had the impression that he tried to toe the government line, and had consequently lost a lot of support from members who wanted to work with AQAM.


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