03 May 2010
From Pakistan to Times Square?
As usual, Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal has some excellent exclusive coverage of the latest claims made by the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). In a video recently posted to YouTube (and since removed), Qari Hussein Mehsud - one of the TTP's top explosives experts - took "full responsibility for the recent attack in the USA."
Mehsud explained that "this attack is a revenge for the great and valuable martyred leaders of the mujahideen"- listing Baitullah Mehsud (killed in August 09), Abu Umar al Baghdadi (AUAB), and Abu Ayyub al Masri (AAM).
Additionally, the TTP sent a videotape and audiotape to the Long War Journal that were intended to serve as proof of life for Hakimullah Mehsud, who was initially thought to be killed in an airstrike in January. In the video (produced on 04 April), Mehsud specifically warned of impending attacks in the US, saying "The time is very near when our fedayeen will attack the American states in their major cities...and god willing we will give extremely painful blows to the fanatic America."
Although it's impressive that the TTP's media wing (Umar Studios) was able to so quickly capitalize on the failed attack in Times Square, I believe it's unlikely that the Pakistan-based group was actually responsible. My primary reasoning for this assessment is the method/TTP employed in the attack - which has been reported as a very crude device made of 3x propane tanks, 2x jugs of gasoline, dozens of M-88 firecrackers, and a metal gun case holding 100x lbs. of fertilizer (which police said was incapable of exploding). The only possible explanation for the TTP using such a crude bomb would be that is served as a "test run" to gauge our response/reaction prior to one or more follow-on attacks with more sophisticated devices.
Looking forward, it will be critical for NYPD and federal officials to conduct a detailed exploitation of all evidence (videotapes, detonation device, biometrics, etc.) to determine who was actually responsible. Unfortunately, I believe this attack could mark the beginning of what I predict will be a series of VBIEDs that will strike targets across the US in the coming months/years. The increased use - and success - of the VBIED TTP in both Iraq and Afghanistan by Al Qaeda and affiliated groups (and in several other areas where the group operates) makes it almost inevitable that we'll see this TTP migrate to the US.