"We will be attacking in a new style against the United States and its allies. Our people have reached the US and other European countries and soon will be attacking," says Azam Tariq. The spokesman for Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spoke by phone from an undisclosed location.
The group has shown little reach beyond Pakistan in the past and has been on the retreat in the face of Pakistan military offensives over the past year. For these reasons, analysts and officials have downplayed TTP's possible role in the New York City attempt. On Wednesday, Pakistani military spokesman Gen. Athar Abbas questioned the ability of the group to reach US soil. "Anybody can claim anything," he said.
In the initial aftermath of the car bomb's discovery in Times Square, an online video surfaced that purported to be from the Taliban group's top bomb maker and took responsibility for the attack. That was followed by another video, this time supposedly recorded in early April by the group's leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, in which he promised attacks on American soil within a month.
On Monday, Mr. Tariq denied knowledge of the first video that explicitly claimed responsibility for the attack. By Wednesday, Tariq was quoted denying ties to Faisal Shahzad, the man who was arrested for driving the car to Times Square and has since said he’d received bomb-making training in Pakistan.
"This is a noble job and we pray that all the Muslim youths should follow Faisal Shahzad. But he is not part of our network," he said. The Pakistani-American neither came to the TTP for training, he said, nor did he receive any from the group.
Instead he offered a conspiracy theory that plays well in Pakistan.
"This was a plot hatched by the US and its allies to trap Muslim and [ethnic] Pukhtun youth in terrorist activities," said Tariq, defending Shahzad for his role in the failed Time Square car bomb attack. "This is a conspiracy of the US and its allies against Muslims and the Pukhtuns to defame them."
This is the first time that Tariq spoke about the Pukhtuns, also known as Pashtuns. The Taliban usually emphasize Muslim identity, not ethnic identity.