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Where in Pakistan did Faisal Shahzad learn bomb-making skills?

Jihadi training camps in Pakistan – like the one Times Square car bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad said he attended – have taught bombmaking and other skills to militants since the 1980s.

By Staff writer, Behroz KhanCorrespondent, Issam AhmedCorrespondent / May 5, 2010

A Pakistani villager walks his laden bull cart past a locked house, owned by the family of New York City's Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad, in his native village of Mohib Banda, about 15 miles from Peshawar, Pakistan on Wednesday.

Mohammad Sajjad/AP


Peshawar and Lahore, Pakistan; New Delhi

Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the attempted New York City Times Square bombing, has told investigators that he had received bombmaking training in the Pakistani region of Waziristan.

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Typically, such training takes place in camps tucked away in mountainous regions like Waziristan, protected by the rugged terrain and lack of government. It's not known yet at which camp Mr. Shahzad may have spent time.

Despite a yearlong offensive by the Pakistani military and an escalation in the use of American drones, terrorist training camps have proved difficult to wipe out. Reasons include the minimal infrastructure of the camps, their remote locations, and, at times, official acquiescence.

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"The whole area is under the American and Pakistani surveillance with drone technology, so whatever training is going on must be inside compounds and must be in very well-protected areas," says Rifaat Hussein, a security expert at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.

A compound might contain dozens of houses, but if only one is used for training, it's difficult to know that, he says. "The drone attacks can only get at those targets for which one has very credible and actionable intelligence."

A range of camps

Camps cropped up across the country during the 1980s, when Pakistan and the United States funded the training of jihadis to send to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet occupation. Some of that physical infrastructure remains, but Dr. Hussein says not much would be useful since those camps were not designed for secrecy.

Their real legacy would be the military training and the Islamist mind-set that was passed down. After the Soviets withdrew, Pakistani intelligence elements continued to support Islamist militants both in Afghanistan – groups such as Mullah Omar's Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami – and in Kashmir against India, through groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Some international jihadis also stayed on, forming Al Qaeda and attracting educated recruits with technical skills.