The Corner

Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan & Times Square

Charlie Szrom and Chris Harnisch offer a primer:

Pakistan’s Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has linked itself to the failed May 1 attack in New York City’s Times Square through a full-fledged media campaign over the last two days. The group’s propaganda efforts reveal several important points, all of which are significant irrespective of whether the TTP had operational links to the attack:

  • First, the TTP seeks credit for the attack due to its need for a high-profile success to show its strength.

  • Second, the TTP may be attempting to weaken international support and Pakistani will for any incursion into North Waziristan.

  • Third, the TTP clearly views itself as a member of the global violent Islamist network led by al Qaeda.

  • Fourth, the TTP has again identified the U.S. homeland as a primary target, a threat that should be taken seriously regardless of the group’s role in the Times Square attempt.

On May 2, the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the failed May 1 vehicle bombing in New York City’s Times Square in an audio message. [1]  The TTP issued a video that same day showing its nominal leader Hakimullah Mehsud, [2] previously believed to have died in late January until reports began to emerge of his survival last week.[3]  Hakimullah Mehsud specifically mentions targets in the U.S. in this second video, allegedly produced on April 4, saying “The time is very near when our Fidaeen will attack the American states in their major cities.” [4]  In a third video, allegedly recorded on April 19 but released on May 2, Hakimullah Mehsud goes into further detail on his threat, stating that, “From now on, the main targest of our Fidaeen are American cities. The good news will be heard within some days or weeks. Today on-wards, the direction of our Jehad [sic] is American states and cities.” This third video displayed these statements over a backdrop showing explosions imprinted on a satellite image of the continental United States. [5]

The TTP, by releasing the two videos immediately after taking credit for the Times Square attack, has sent several messages: first, that it should receive credit for the Times Square attack; second, that it follows through on its threats; third, that Americans should now recognize the threat posed by the TTP; and fourth, that the TTP remains a strong and active member of the international violent Islamist network led by al Qaeda.

The TTP may or may not bear responsibility for the Times Square attack. Reportage on May 3 indicates that U.S. officials are examining international connections, perhaps involving the TTP, to the attack, but it could take days or weeks to corroborate or dismiss the group’s self-proclaimed role.[6]

The TTP has a history of taking credit for terrorist plots and making threats without clear confirmation of its involvement or follow-through. Former TTP leader Beitullah Mehsud stated in a January 2008 interview, for instance, “…we want to defeat America and Britain, and to break the arrogance and the despotism of the infidel.” [7] No TTP-directed attacks in America occurred afterwards. Beitullah Mehsud also took credit in April 2009 for a shooting rampage at an immigration center in Binghamton, New York, an improbable claim given that the perpetrator of the attacks did not appear to have a connection to violent Islamists. [8]   

The TTP’s attempt to take credit for the attack signifies its focus on the U.S. and underscores its role in the broader Islamist struggle led by al Qaeda; the results of the investigation into whether the TTP actually masterminded the Times Square attack will not fundamentally alter these conclusions.

More here.

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