U.S. to send Pakistan detailed request for help in Times Square bomb probe
Thursday, May 6, 2010
As investigators continued questioning Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad on Wednesday, the Obama administration was preparing to deliver to Pakistan a detailed request for urgent and specific assistance on the case.
U.S. officials said that they had reached no firm conclusion about whether Shahzad had ties to any domestic militant group in Pakistan but that information gathered thus far continued to point to the Pakistani Taliban, which has asserted responsibility for the bombing attempt.
The question of which group, if any, was involved is an important one for the future of the uneasy counterterrorism alliance between the United States and Pakistan. The Pakistani military has been waging war against the Pakistani Taliban for more than a year, with U.S. assistance.
But Pakistan might be more reluctant to take action against other groups, particularly those focused on separating the disputed region of Kashmir from India. Some, particularly Lashkar-i-Taiba, thought responsible for terrorist attacks in India, have strong support within the Pakistani intelligence service. Pakistani officials aiding in the Times Square case said they have arrested some people linked to a third group, Jaish-i-Muhammad, which is focused on Kashmir but has also turned its efforts against U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
A U.S. counterterrorism official said it was possible that two or more groups had worked together in grooming Shahzad for a terrorist mission during an extended trip he made to Pakistan last year. "There is a serious Venn diagram issue going on here," the official said. U.S. intelligence suspects there is increasing overlap and coordination among domestic Pakistani groups and the Pakistan-based Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda.
In New York, Shahzad continued his extensive cooperation with members of the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force, law enforcement officials said. He waived his right to an initial court hearing.
Pressure on Pakistan to escalate its domestic counterterrorism operations, particularly toward Kashmir- and India-focused militants, could increase anti-U.S. sentiment there, while any perceived Pakistani hesitation would undermine congressional and public support here.
The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, held preliminary meetings in Islamabad on Wednesday with President Asif Ali Zardari and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. "The Pakistanis understand that they will have responsibilities as this investigation moves forward," an administration official said. "We need to provide them with some information. Based on that information, there are clearly things that they're going to need to do."
The official said the administration's goal was to present a detailed request for cooperation to Pakistan by the end of this week.
A senior Pakistani official said that the United States "hasn't done any comprehensive briefing of what they want from us. That doesn't mean they haven't told us what they would like."
So far, the only specific U.S. request has been to interview Shahzad's parents; a Pakistani official said the parents had not been located.
In the Hayatabad township of the northwestern city of Peshawar on Wednesday, residents and workers said the couple and close relatives had vanished from their house Tuesday night, although it was unclear whether they had been taken away or had left of their own accord.