Video Shows U.S. Attack Did Not Kill Top Militant [hakimullah mehsud]
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban reported killed in an American drone strike four months ago, was shown alive and well in an Internet video posting early Monday, warning of suicide revenge attacks on United States cities.
It was the first time Mr. Mehsud had been seen since his supposed death in January.
The video was posted hours after the Pakistani Taliban issued an Internet video asserting responsibility for the Times Square car bomb, a claim that many experts in Pakistan and the United States dismissed as lacking any credibility because the group has never before conducted attacks beyond Pakistan and Afghanistan’s borders.
The Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group of militants, has previously made claims of responsibility for attacks in the United States that have not been proved.
Nonetheless, the videos, produced by the Pakistani Taliban’s media arm, Umar Studio, were sure to be an embarrassment to the Pakistan government, which has suggested that it broke the back of the movement after months of fighting in the border areas that is the militants’ stronghold.
The Pakistani Taliban, which has carried out a bombing campaign in Pakistan over the last two years, as well as attacks in Afghanistan, has links to Al Qaeda and shares a haven in North Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal areas, with Qaeda leaders.
The first Internet posting, claiming responsibility for the Times Square car bomb, came Sunday in a video on YouTube by Tehreek-e-Taliban, which means Movement of Taliban, with an audio message said to be from Qari Hussein Mehsud, a prominent leader of the umbrella group who is known to have trained cohorts of suicide bombers to carry out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The video opened with congratulations to Muslims on the “jaw-breaking blow to Satan’s USA,” and a note saying, “We Tehreek-e-Taliban with all the Pride and Bravery, take full responsibility for the recent attack in the USA.”
Hours later came the second video showing Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban, who warned that suicide bombers would soon be directing attacks at American cities.
The video asserts that it was made on April 4, said the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadist Web sites and translates the contents for subscribers.
Mr. Mehsud, flanked by two armed fighters whose faces were covered with white scarves, warned that his movement would soon retaliate against the United States for the many Muslim leaders “martyred” in attacks. “The time is very near when our fidaeen will attack the American states in their major cities,” he said, referring to suicide fighters. He went on to say that in a month’s time the Muslim community would see the fruit of those attacks. “Our fidaeen have penetrated the terrorist America, we will give extremely painful blows to the fanatic America,” he said.
The Taliban movement in Pakistan has suffered substantially in fighting with the Pakistani military in the tribal areas over recent months, but Pakistani and American officials recently admitted that Hakimullah Mehsud and the Taliban’s suicide bomber trainer, Qari Hussain, had survived drone strikes.
The fact that their media arm is watching and reacting to international events and posting videos on YouTube indicates that at least the media arm of the Pakistani Taliban is still functioning, despite American drone strikes and Pakistani military operations.
The group does have links to Al Qaeda and may have trained foreign nationals to conduct operations abroad, although is not known for operations beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The group’s most spectacular attack was by a Jordanian double agent, Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, who killed eight people, including four senior C.I.A. officials, in a suicide bomb attack at in a military base in Khost, eastern Afghanistan, in December. A video showing Hakimullah Mehsud and the Jordanian together claiming responsibility before the attack was disseminated on jihadi Web sites afterward.Yet the Pakistani Taliban has also made far-fetched claims of responsibility for other attacks in the United States, including a shooting on an immigrant center in Albany in April 2009, although no connection to the Taliban was found.