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Pakistan probes alleged terror links to Times Square bomb

Sunday, May 9, 2010

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan will investigate alleged links between the man accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square and militant groups operating in the country's northwest believed to have supported the botched attack, the interior minister said Saturday.

The suspect, Faisal Shahzad, has told U.S. investigators that he trained in the lawless tribal areas of Waziristan, where both al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban operate. The Pakistani-American spent five months in his native country before returning to the United States in February.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Islamabad had received a formal request for an investigation from the U.S. that said "Shahzad visited South Waziristan and they say he met Qari Hussain and Hakimullah Mehsud."

Mehsud is the head of the Pakistani Taliban, while Hussain is the group's chief bomb maker who is also in charge of recruiting suicide attackers. Malik said Pakistani authorities needed to verify the information included in the U.S. request.

Malik also stressed that only Pakistani investigators would be permitted to interview Shahzad's relatives and other associates.

"Pakistan's government will not allow any outside investigators to investigate our people," he said.

The Pakistani Taliban originally claimed responsibility for the failed attack but have since backed away from the claim for reasons that were not clear.

Pakistan had already promised to cooperate with the investigation and has detained at least four people with alleged connections to Shahzad, the sole suspect. The four have suspected ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group affiliated with al-Qaida.

A senior U.S. military official told The Associated Press that investigators believe Shahzad had bomb-making training in Pakistan, sponsored in part by elements of the Pakistani Taliban.

If those suspicions prove correct, it suggests that groups based in Pakistan, including the Taliban along the Afghan border, may be taking on a more global approach after years of focusing attacks largely on government or coalition forces in their region.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told CBS television's "60 Minutes" that Washington expects more cooperation from Pakistan in fighting terrorism. There will be "severe consequences" if an attack on U.S. soil were traced back to the South Asian country, she said.

Over the past year, the Pakistani army has launched offensives near the Afghan border -- particularly in South Waziristan -- where many militants had been based. But Islamabad has been resisting calls to move forcefully into all parts of Waziristan because it does not want to antagonize powerful militant groups there that have so far attacked only targets in Afghanistan, not Pakistani cities.

Associated Press writers Asif Shahzad in Islamabad and Kimberly Dozier and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

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