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U.S. authorities have yet to verify suspect's claim on terror training


May 5, 2010, 7:52PM



The revelation marks the first time that a specific Pakistani militant group has been associated with the case of Faisal Shahzad, the 30-year-old Pakistani American charged in the failed bomb plot. But it does not necessarily mean that the organization engineered the plot or directed Shahzad's actions.

The intelligence sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the case.

The man arrested, Sheikh Mohammed Rehan, allegedly drove with Shahzad from Karachi to Peshawar on July 7 in a pickup truck, authorities said. They returned to Karachi July 22. It is not known why they went to Peshawar or with whom, if anyone, they met there.

Jaish-e-Muhammad began in the mid-1990s as a militant organization primarily focused on the overthrow of Indian forces in Indian-administered Kashmir.


Faisal Shahzad was cooperating with authorities for a third day, but investigators remained uncertain whether they were dealing with a single, angry man or a larger international plot.

Shahzad has claimed, authorities say, that he was trained at a camp in Pakistan's lawless tribal region. That has stoked fears that Saturday's nearly catastrophic bombing was part of an international plot.

Few warning signs

If Shahzad was part of a larger organization, it would serve as a reminder that nearly a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, foreign terrorists are still trying to strike on U.S. soil. Like the unsuccessful Christmas Day airline bombing near Detroit, the Times Square plot could be flaunted by terrorists, even in failure.

And if an attacker operated alone, the plot would raise questions about how investigators can prevent an assault when there are few warning signs, the prime suspect has no known ties to terrorists and the methods are crude.

Law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the case, said Wednesday they had not verified the statements they said Shahzad had made that he was trained in Pakistan for the attack. The Waziristan region is home to several terrorist and militant organizations.

The Pakistani Taliban originally claimed responsibility for the Times Square bomb attempt, but officials have said there was no evidence that was true. One counterterrorism official said Wednesday such a link was plausible but not confirmed. Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, told CNN on Wednesday that his group did not train Shahzad.

If a link were to be established, it would be represent a significant operational leap for the group, which has never struck the U.S.

Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, said Wednesday that no one has been arrested or detained in Pakistan in connection with the probe, but that an unspecified number of people had been questioned.

In an interview with The Associated Press prior to a scheduled appearance at the Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass., Haqqani said investigators are still trying to determine if Shahzad trained in Pakistan, and if so where and with whom.

But there were signs suggesting Shahzad may not be strongly linked to a group. The Times Square car bomb — a potent but haphazard stash of propane, fireworks and gasoline — did not demonstrate the kind of explosives training that terror groups in Waziristan normally provide ahead of a bombing operation, officials said. If Shahzad was trained, they said, he was trained quickly or poorly.

Investigators lauded

At the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs applauded what he called a seamless investigation by many agencies that tracked down Shahzad after the bomb was discovered in an SUV in the busy Times Square area on Saturday. Nonetheless, the administration tightened restrictions on airlines, forcing them to check the no-fly list more regularly.

Authorities added Shahzad to the list shortly after noon Monday, after making him their prime suspect. Shahzad tried to leave the country that night, reserving a ticket on his way to John F. Kennedy International Airport and paying cash on arrival. Because airlines have been required to check the no-fly list for updates only every 24 hours, Gibbs said, Emirates airline officials didn't spot the late addition of Shahzad's name. He was on board the plane when a Customs and Border Protection official spotted his name on a passenger list and he was arrested.


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