U.S. Says Pakistani Taliban Behind Bomb Attempt
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And Attorney General Eric Holder came out with some stunning news, yesterday, on the failed car bombing in Times Square.
Here he is on ABC's "This Week."
Mr. ERIC HOLDER (U.S. Attorney General): The evidence we've now developed shows that the Pakistani Taliban has directed this plot. We know that they helped facilitate it. We know that they helped direct. And I suspect that we are going to come up with evidence that shows they helped to finance it.
MONTAGNE: NPR's counterterrorism correspondent, Dina Temple-Raston, has been following the story for us, and she joins us now with the latest. Good morning, Dina.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: So we just heard the attorney general and also White House officials have said, that the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, was backed by this Pakistani militant group and maybe even financed by it. Is that definitive?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, according to the sources that I've talked to, it's still really unclear whether this Connecticut man, this naturalized American, Faisal Shahzad, went to Pakistan looking for training to launch a terrorist attack or whether he was recruited. In other words, did he go there all ready knowing that he wanted to come back to the U.S. and attack, or did he go there and then get radicalized?
And I know this sounds like a really small difference, since either way a car bomb ends up in Times Square, but from an intelligence point of view, they would much rather think that there's a person or two in the U.S. who might go to Pakistan and train, and maybe lose heart, than to think that Pakistani militants can actually reach right in the U.S., find Americans on the Internet, convince them to leave the U.S., train them in explosives, and then send that back. I mean, that requires a huge amount of sophistication, and certainly more the U.S. thinks the Pakistani Taliban have right now.
MONTAGNE: So, which theory are these sources of yours leaning toward?
TEMPLE-RASTON: In terms of who actually trained him, they're not sure yet. But it's rather interesting, how they're tip-toeing around the issue of training. I mean, they focused on directing and facilitating, but not actually training for this attack. And that suggests there may be more than one group involved. That's because they're still trying to confirm all those little details about where he was, and that gets into the bigger problem of what's going on in Pakistan.
With all these drone attacks in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, there are a lot of militant groups. And I'm going to apologize for throwing all these names at you - but the Pakistani Taliban, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba - they're all joining forces in a way they haven't before. Like the best bomb makers and trainers seem to be Lashkar guys, and it looks like Shahzad had childhood and family friends who are members of Jaish-e-Mohammed or JEM.
And sources tell us that it was JEM members who took Shahzad up to North Waziristan to be trained. So, did Lashkar train him as they suspect? That would be a really big deal, 'cause Lashkar was the group behind the attack in Mumbai, India a couple of years ago. So...
MONTAGNE: Meaning they know what they're doing.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Exactly. That's exactly what worries them, is that they're know what they're doing. And that still leaves open the question there are some things they're not sure about. Exactly who did fund it? They think the Pakistani Taliban did but they're not sure who planned it or was there something he did on his own initiative? I think these are really important question they're trying to get to the bottom of.
MONTAGNE: So, he trained, possibly, with one group, talking about that he ended up with another group. Is there any possibility that, rather than joining up, they're actually rival groups?
TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, they all sort of get together at this time. That's what the drone attacks have done, is they've brought some of these groups that weren't so close before, much closer, and that's what they're looking at.
MONTAGNE: So, what can we expect next in this investigation?
TEMPLE-RASTON: I think that we're going to get a better idea of the timing of Shahzad's actions. You know, reporters were focusing on the fact that he lost his job and had a foreclosure on his house, and they've come to the conclusion that the financial troubles are what drove him to Pakistan. The sources I've been talking to think it might be the other way around: that Shahzad had been traveling back and forth, then last year, he voluntarily leaves his job, stops paying his mortgage, and takes his family to Pakistan; and essentially, he sort of turned his life in America off.
And that's a really common scenario among Americans who go train at camps. They often get credit cards and run them up to their limit because they figure they don't have to pay them. So, that's part of the thing that they're looking now: chicken and the egg. You know, did Shahzad go there wanting to attack or did they find him and use him as a really simple vessel to use to attack here in the U.S.?
MONTAGNE: Dina, thank you for the update.
TEMPLE-RASTON: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Dina Temple-Raston.
(Soundbite of music)
MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.