Pakistan Taliban Source: Times Square Bombing Attempt Was 'Revenge Against America'

A top Afghan Taliban planner and organizer tells NEWSWEEK he wasn't surprised by the attempted car bombing in Times Square. "We were expecting this," says the source, who operates on both sides of the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border. He says the Pakistani Taliban—formally known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban—was hellbent on revenge after the Predator drone attack that killed its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, last August and the more recent strikes that nearly killed Baitullah's successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, this January. "They were desperately looking for revenge against America inside America," says the source, who declined to be identified by name for security reasons. Hakimullah went deep underground immediately after the Hellfire missile attack in January, disappearing so completely that even his fellow militants thought he was dead. According to the senior Afghan source, he vanished not only for his own safety but also because he wanted to come back with a bang: "Hakimullah wanted to announce his return with a successful bombing in America."

And sure enough, the same weekend Faisal Shahzad parked his potentially lethal SUV on Times Square, Hakimullah suddenly reappeared in an Internet video, announcing he was "alive and healthy." Shortly afterward a second video surfaced showing a still picture of Hakimullah standing next to a map of the U.S. marked with red symbols denoting explosions, over an audio track saying: "Good news will be heard within some days or weeks ... The time is very near when our fedayeen [fighters] will attack the American states in the major cities." The day after the attack, a scratchy Internet audio recording was issued in the name of Hakimullah's deputy, suicide- and car-bombing expert Qari Hussain, taking "full responsibility for the recent attack in the U.S.A." A Pakistani Taliban spokesman quickly disowned the recording.

Whether or not the recording was genuine, U.S. officials say suspicion is building that Shahzad had ties to Tehrik-e-Taliban—a connection that's also denied by the same spokesman. The Afghan source says he's not sure. "We have been hearing that the Tehrik-e-Taliban were expecting two or three attacks in America soon," the Afghan Taliban source says. "Shahzad may have been one of them." He says he has heard that one or two of the bombers have already recorded farewell "martyrdom videos" at Hakimullah's side. Nevertheless, the source admits he hadn't heard Shahzad's name mentioned in conversations about the bombers. Nor does he believe Shahzad could have spent much time in the Pakistani Taliban's stronghold. "He couldn't have had full-scale training in one of their camps, because his bomb was so ineffective," he says. "He must have just passed through quickly." The Afghan says he worries about U.S. retaliation for the Times Square attack. "The Afghan Taliban and many tribal elders thought they shouldn't claim responsibility, because it will only bring more American attacks on our areas," he says. "But Hakimullah doesn't care. He just wants to strike out."

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Pakistan Taliban Source: Times Square Bombing Attempt Was 'Revenge Against America' | U.S.