US investigators are now focusing on the possible involvement of the Pakistani Taliban in the failed Times Square bombing as they pieced together clues and charged a Pakistani-American in the case, media reports said.
Faisal Shahzad, 30, who became a naturalised US citizen last year, was pulled off an airplane as he headed to his native Pakistan. He has admitted his involvement in the plot, authorities said, and told FBI agents he received bomb-making training in Pakistan’s Waziristan region, known as a militant hotbed.
His reported confession, combined with a series of phone calls he received from Pakistan after purchasing the Nissan Pathfinder used in the attempted bombing, has led investigators to zero in on the Pakistani Taliban connection as "a leading theory", Washington Post reported on Wednesday citing a federal law enforcement official.
"It's a leading line of inquiry," the unnamed official was quoted as saying. "There are only a few organizations in Pakistan that could provide training, and the Pakistani Taliban is... one that has an axe to grind with us."
Pakistani Taliban claims of responsibility for Saturday night's attempt, which investigators had played down, are being re-evaluated, said the official, who added that Al Qaeda involvement "is a leap at this point".
In a separate report from Islamabad, the Post said Pakistani-American Shahzad’s arrest had again put the spotlight on Pakistan as a global terrorist training hub, raising the prospect of intensified US pressure to break up militant networks.
The close call in Times Square is likely to prompt US officials to lean on Pakistan to deepen its fight against Islamist extremists, particularly in the militant hotbed of North Waziristan, it said.
Over the past year, Pakistan's military has challenged its homegrown militants with unprecedented force, and it has boosted its image by pushing the Taliban out of the Swat Valley and South Waziristan.
Still, Pakistan has resisted US pressure to take on insurgents in North Waziristan or in Punjab province, an area that is at the heart of Pakistan but is also the base of militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, suspected in the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, the Post noted.