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'Times Square bomb case investigation litmus test for Pak'

world Updated: May 06, 2010 11:28 IST
Faisal Shahzad

With the role of India-focused terror outfits such as Laskhar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed likely to come under scanner in the Times Square bombing plot, Pakistan's response would be a "litmus test" for future engagement with the US as Islamabad has been reluctant to act against these groups, a top American expert has said.

"The investigation of Faisal Shahzad and the quality of US-Pakistan cooperation on the case is likely to have major implications for the future of the US-Pakistan partnership," said Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation, a city-based think tank.

"Pakistan in the past has been reluctant to pursue aggressively militants whose main purpose is to attack India. If militants linked to India-focused groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and/or Jaish-e-Mohammed turn out to be involved in any way in the attempted Times Square attack, Pakistan's response will likely serve as a litmus test for future US engagement with Pakistan," Curtis said.

Some Pakistani security strategists have long believed they can pursue a dual policy of tolerating some terrorists while fighting others, she observed.

"The increased links among the various militant groups operating inside Pakistan have made this policy untenable."

While investigations of Faisal Shahzad are so far inconclusive, it is possible he was in contact with terrorists affiliated with groups previously supported by Pakistan's ISI, she noted.

The expert said Faisal Shahzad's confession to attending a terrorist training camp in Waziristan has led investigators to take Pakistani Taliban's claim in the plot more seriously.

"The Pakistani Taliban has been victim to numerous US drone strikes along the Pakistani-Afghan border and would certainly have sufficient motive to attack the US homeland. However, the group has made previous claims of responsibility for attacks in the US that turned out to be false," she said.

However, Pakistan Army Spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the Pakistani Taliban claim should be "taken with a pinch of salt".

Arrested on charges of plotting bomb at Times Square, Shahzad during his interrogation has said that he received explosives training at a terrorist camp in the tribal border areas of Pakistan.

"This information does not fully comport, however, with other reporting that his bomb making skills were amateurish," Curtis said.

Shahzad apparently made a simple mistake of using the wrong type of fertiliser, which contributed to the ineffectiveness of the explosive device, she added.