Monday, June 27, 2011

But By All Means, Let's Talk With The Taliban In Afghanistan

Pakistan's Taliban vow attacks on West
By Michael Georgy

ISLAMABAD | Mon Jun 27, 2011 7:21am EDT

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's Taliban, a close ally of al Qaeda, has threatened to carry out a series of attacks against American, British and French targets to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden.

"Soon you will see attacks against America and NATO countries, and our first priorities in Europe will be France and Britain," deputy Pakistani Taliban leader Wali-ur-Rehman said in a videotape aired on Al Arabiya over the weekend.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, is blamed for many of the suicide bombings across the country and remains highly dangerous despite a series of army offensives against its strongholds in the northwest on the Afghan border.

It has not demonstrated an ability to stage sophisticated attacks in the West, however.

The TTP's one apparent bid to inflict carnage in the United States failed. The group claimed responsibility for the botched car bomb attack in New York's Times Square last year.

But American intelligence agencies take it seriously. It was later added to the United States' list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The video showed Rehman flanked by armed followers walking through rough mountain terrain. He sits on a blanket beside a sniper's rifle on a hilltop and explains the TTP's plans.

"We selected 10 targets to avenge the death of bin Laden," said Rehman, a former teacher who the Pakistani media have described as more sober and experienced than other TTP leaders.

Rehman, also seen firing a machinegun into the distance in the video, did not elaborate.

But he said the first revenge operation was the Taliban siege of a Pakistani naval base in Karachi last month, one of several setbacks the military has suffered since U.S. special forces killed bin Laden on Pakistani soil on May 2.

The TTP regards the Pakistan army as a U.S. puppet.

It has kept the government on the defensive since bin Laden's death, staging suicide bombings, large-scale attacks on security forces with large numbers of fighters, and employing new tactics.

A Taliban militant and his wife carried out a weekend shooting and suicide bombing on a police station that killed 12 policemen.

The United States has been leaning hard on Pakistan to crack down on militancy since it was discovered that bin Laden may have been living in the country for years.

More Pakistani cooperation is needed as Washington seeks to wind down the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and defeat al Qaeda and its allies.

But Pakistan's generals are furious because the United States kept them in the dark over the bin Laden raid.

The Pakistani and Afghan Taliban move easily across the porous frontier and provide each other with shelter and intelligence, complicating efforts to root out militancy in the region President Barack Obama has described as "the most dangerous place in the world."

Rehman has pledged allegiance to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, and repeated that pledge on the tape.

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