Pakistan Probes Terrorist Links To Shahzad Case

Pakistani authorities have pledged to cooperate with the U.S. in the investigation into the Times Square bomb plot. Pakistani authorities have arrested eight people in connection with the attempted bombing, most of them from the district where Faisal Shahzad grew up.

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Investigators are also looking for evidence in Pakistan. Authorities say that Shahzad received bomb-making training in Waziristan, which is a remote area, one of the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. That revelation raises the possibility of broader involvement by Pakistani militants.

From Islamabad, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

JULIE MCCARTHY: The criminal complaint filed in federal court states that Faisal Shahzad told investigators that he had acted alone in the failed car bombing in Times Square. But his admission that he received training in Pakistan's militant controlled tribal areas focuses attention on whether he was acting in concert with one of Pakistan's many militant organizations.

Pakistan's army has launched an offensive to dislodge militants from South Waziristan, but its counterterrorism strategy has avoided a full-frontal assault in North Waziristan.

Analyst and author Ahmed Rashid says if it emerges that Faisal Shahzad has affiliations with Pakistani militant groups, such as the Pakistan Taliban, or the pro-Kashmiri Lashkar-e Taiba, it could have serious implications for Pakistan vis-a-vis the Washington's desire for a more aggressive crackdown.

Mr. AHMED RASHID (Middle East Analyst): This guy is obviously going to be linked to either Lashkar-e Taiba or to North Waziristan. And so on either count, wherever he's linked, there's going to be enormous pressure. There will be cooperation from the Pakistan government, but there will also be enormous pressure, I think.

MCCARTHY: Government sources confirm that Muhammad Rehan, described as a friend of Faisal Shahzad, has been arrested in Karachi. Sources say he was picked up from a mosque known for links with the militant group Jaish-e Mohammed. According to local reports, Rehan told investigators that he had rented a truck and drove with Shahzad to Peshawar, where they stayed for 16 days last July.

But Professor Syed Rifaat Hussain says any speculation about whom Shahzad may have been affiliated with is premature. However, the military expert at Quaid-i-Azam University says there are plenty of candidates.

Professor SYED RIFAAT HUSSAIN (Quaid-i-Azam University): We know that he is returning, but who his trainers were and, you know, who his sponsors were, we do not know. We have a very, very wide variety of the militant groups operating here. But the question is that, you know, if he received training in North Waziristan, were the (unintelligible) providing him with training or was it the (unintelligible) Taliban Pakistan, was it the Haqqani network? We don't know that.

MCCARTHY: The Haqqani network overseen by veteran militant Afghan leader Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin has been targeting NATO troops in Afghanistan using a base in North Waziristan. But defense analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi says Pakistan is not currently going after the Haqqani group because it's not directly challenging the Pakistani state.

Mr. HASAN ASKARI RIZVI (Defense Analyst): It is not possible for Pakistan to open all fronts simultaneously. On the one hand there is American pressure to go after these groups. On the other hand, Pakistan doesn't have the capacity to go after all of these groups at the same time.

MCCARTHY: Pakistan's military establishment has argued that it must carefully choose how it quashes militancy here, saying its troops, equipment and resources are limited. It has been a perennial source of tension between the United States and Pakistan, with Washington just recently beginning to appreciate Pakistan's position. Again, Hasan Askari Rizvi.

Mr. RIZVI: So Pakistan has to be selective. And in this selection process sometimes there are differences between the two countries.

MCCARTHY: Details, meanwhile, are emerging about Shahzad's family. He is reported to be the son of a retired Air Force vice marshal who later joined the Civil Aviation Authority. The family, described as well-off, is reported to have moved to Karachi from the Northwest Frontier Province in the 1990s. Local media reports say Shahzad's father-in-law, Iftikhar Mian, has been detained for questioning, but that report could not be independently verified.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad.

MONTAGNE: And Steve, you'll be joining Julie in Pakistan over the next couple of weeks following an ancient road there. Why don't you tell us about that?

INSKEEP: Yeah, we're going to be meeting young people along that ancient road. It's called the Grand Trunk Road. It goes from Calcutta, India all the way across to Pakistan and to Peshawar, Pakistan. And a team of NPR correspondents and producers will be going along - Julie McCarthy who you just heard; NPR's Phil Reeves on the Indian side; I'll be there for a portion of the road. And we're very much looking forward to that. That's going to begin, the broadcasts will begin next week, about a week from now.

MONTAGNE: And you can follow the program on the road on Twitter @MorningEdition. Also follow you, Steve, @NPRInskeep. We're on Facebook too. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News, heading for the Grand Trunk Road.

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