Pakistan – The Pakistani government has arrested a suspect with connections to a Pakistani militant group who said he acted as an accomplice to the accused Times Square bomber, U.S. officials said.
The suspect, whose arrest has not been previously disclosed, provided an “independent stream” of evidence that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack, including admitting helping Faisal Shahzad, the main suspect, travel into Pakistan’s tribal areas for bomb training.
Officials familiar with the probe cautioned that there have been inconsistencies in the two suspects’ accounts. Federal authorities expanded their search for physical evidence Thursday, carrying out raids in four northeastern states, and arresting three people suspected of funneling money to Shahzad.
Indeed, the U.S. determination that the Pakistani Taliban directed the attempted attack is based largely on accounts of the two men, several U.S. officials said. Authorities have been examining phone records, e-mails and other communications for firmer evidence of the links between Shahzad and the Pakistani Taliban.
“What they said has been collaborated by other evidence,” said a senior law enforcement source, who would not specify that evidence, saying it is classified.
The suspect in Pakistani custody “is believed to have a connection to the TTP,” said a U.S. intelligence official, using an acronym for the Pakistani Taliban. Certain clues have added to authorities’ understanding of the plot, the official said, but “what is definitely true is that a lot of this comes from the statements of people directly involved.”
Assessing the role of the Pakistani Taliban carries significant stakes. A clear link would move the militant group onto an expanding list of al-Qaeda affiliates that pose a direct threat to the United States. It would also put new pressure on the U.S. relationship with Pakistan at a time when President Obama is pushing the country to expand its military campaign against insurgent groups.