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Times Square bomber charged, claims training in Waziristan

AFP

A Pakistani-American man who was arrested Tuesday in connection with a failed bomb attack on New York’s Times Square this weekend has been charged with five counts of terrorism. Faisal Shahzad, who investigators say is cooperating, claims to have learned bomb making in Waziristan, in northwest Pakistan.

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A ten-page criminal complaint filed in the state of Connecticut, Shahzad’s place of residence, accuses him of five counts of terrorism, including the attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction and transporting an explosive device.

The complaint states that Shahzad admitted, after he was arrested, “that he had received bomb-making training in Waziristan, Pakistan”, though he had told US officials he acted alone.

Pakistan’s army, which is in charge of the country’s intelligence agencies, says it has not yet established whether Shahzad had ever visited Waziristan, the semi-autonomous region along the Afghan border that that some of the country’s main terrorist groups use as a stronghold.

The complaint says that Shahzad visited the area during a five-month trip he took to Pakistan at the end of last year. He went with his wife and children, but returned in February without them.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which is based in Waziristan, claimed responsibility for the Times Square bomb. The US and Pakistan have dismissed the claim.

“Anybody can get up and claim anything,” Pakistani Army spokesperson Athar Abbas told the AFP news agency.

Pakistan has detained two people who had been called from Shahzad’s phone

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Wednesday the attempted attack could have been in retaliation for US drone attacks on the Taliban in Pakistan.

"This is retaliation. And you could expect that... let's not be naive," Qureshi told CBS television. "They're not going to sort of sit and welcome you [to] sort of eliminate them. They're going to fight back."

Shahzad, 30, has not yet entered a plea on the charges. He was arrested Tuesday on an airplane headed to Dubai. He allegedly left a large, poorly-constructed bomb in the centre of New York’s Time square, which was found smouldering late Saturday night.

He has been living many years in the US and has been described by people from his home village, Mohib, Banda, as a modern father of two from a comfortable and stable family.

He worked as a financial analyst in the US until he become a citizen last year, when he quit his job and left his home unexpectedly in Connecticut. He returned from Pakistan in February and kept a low profile until this weekend.

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Aiysha Siddiqa, a specialist on Pakistani politics and terrorism, based in Washington, says that the incident shows the US needs to be focusing beyond the tribal areas in Pakistan.

“This is an urban boy who may have been born in the frontier province, but he was raised in Karachi, in an urban setting. And yet he manages to radicalises to an extent that he wants to kill people,” she told RFI.

She also says the US needs to go beyond fighting organisations, and instead focus on radicalism in general. She connects the failed Times Square bombing with the failed attack on an airplane in December by Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who had explosives in his underwear.

“They used amateur devices, but this experimentation may continue, and it could actually formalise into something more tragic,” she said.

“I think all of this is connected with radicalism. And while people are more willing to fight organisations… there is very little attention being paid to fighting radicalism.”

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