ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s Taliban chief promised attacks on major U.S. cities in a video apparently dated early April and released following the weekend’s car bomb attempt in New York City, a monitoring group said Monday. It followed reports of another video in which the group apparently tried to take credit for that attempted strike.
U.S. authorities have played down the potential connection between the Pakistani militant network and the car bomb attempt in New York’s Times Square, saying the group does not have the global infrastructure to carry out such a strike. However, the Pakistani Taliban are allied with al-Qaida and other groups, which could expand their reach.
The latest video is about nine minutes long and features Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban chief, according to IntelCenter, a U.S.-based group that monitors militant media.
Mehsud does not specifically mention New York, but says he is speaking on April 4 of this year, and promises that, “God willing, very soon in some days or a month’s time, the Muslim (community) will see the fruits of most successful attacks of our fedayeen in USA.”
“Fedayeen” usually refers to suicide bombers, which the car bomb attempt in New York did not involve.
Mehsud also refutes earlier Pakistani and American claims that he died in a U.S. missile strike in January, a belief Pakistani intelligence officials recently revised.
The video follows a second, shorter clip in which the group appears to claim responsibility for the attempted car bomb, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, another monitoring organization.
In the 1 minute, 11 second video allegedly released by the Pakistani Taliban, the militant group says the attack is revenge for the death of its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, and the recent slaying of al-Qaida in Iraq leaders Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who were killed by U.S. and Iraqi troops last month north of Baghdad.
SITE, a U.S.-based terrorist tracking organization, first uncovered the video on YouTube. The tape, which later appeared to have been removed from the website, makes no specific reference to the attack in New York, nor does it mention that the location or that it was a car bomb.
New York City’s police commissioner said there’s no evidence of a Taliban link to the failed car bomb.
In a copy of the tape provided by SITE, an unidentified voice speaking in Urdu, the primary language in Pakistan, says the group takes “full responsibility for the RECENT ATTACK IN THE USA.” The speaker says it comes in response to American “interference and terrorism in Muslim Countries, especially in Pakistan for (the) Lalmasjid operation,” a reference to the Pakistani army’s 2007 storming of the Red Mosque in Islamabad where militants were holed up inside.
The claim could not be immediately verified. But if it turns out to be genuine, it would be the first time the Pakistani Taliban has struck outside of South Asia. It has no known global infrastructure like al-Qaida. In at least one past instance, the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for an attack it played no role in.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs declined to comment on the claim.
“I’m not going to get into assumptions about who might be involved or what their motives might be,” Gibbs said on Air Force One as President Barack Obama flew to New Orleans.
At the start of the video, a text in gold letters on black background celebrates the “jaw-breaking blow to Satan’s USA.” As the speaker delivers the message, images of the slain militants mentioned flash across the screen. English subtitles are provided at the bottom.
The speaker says the attack also avenges U.S. drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas that target Taliban leaders hiding there and the “abduction, torture and humiliation” of Aafia Siddiqui.
Siddiqui is a 37-year-old Pakistani scientist who was convicted in a U.S. court in New York in February of trying to kill American service personnel after her arrest in Afghanistan in 2008. Her case has triggered anger among Pakistani extremist groups and in sections of the media.
As the message concludes, the voice calls on NATO countries – who have troops stationed in Afghanistan – to oppose “evil U.S. policies” and “sincerely apologize for the massacres in Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistani tribal areas.”
The Pakistani Taliban is one of Pakistan’s largest and deadliest militant groups. It has strong links to al-Qaida and is based in the northwest close to the Afghan border. The group has carried out scores of bloody attacks inside Pakistan in recent years, mostly against Pakistani targets, but it has made no secret of its hatred toward the United States.
Last year, its then commander, Baitullah Mehsud, vowed to “amaze everyone in the world” with an attack on Washington or even the White House. But Mehsud also reportedly said his men were behind a mass shooting at the American Civic Association in Binghamton in April 2009. That claim turned out to be false.
The claim comes a day after police in New York found a potentially powerful car bomb that apparently began to detonate but did not explode in a smoking sport utility vehicle in Times Square.
The vehicle contained three propane tanks, fireworks, two filled 5-gallon gasoline containers, and two clocks with batteries, electrical wire and other components, officials said.