Shaky Pakistan seen as a target of Al Qaeda plots: NYT

May 11th, 2009 - 12:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 11 (IANS) As Taliban militants push deeper into Pakistan, foreign operatives of Al Qaeda are seizing on the turmoil to sow chaos in Pakistan, the New York Times reported Monday.

The operatives which had earlier focussed on plotting attacks against the West are now seeking to strengthen the hand of the militant Islamist groups in Pakistan, said the influential US daily citing American and Pakistani intelligence officials.

One indication came April 19, when a truck parked inside an Al Qaeda compound in South Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal areas, erupted in a fireball when it was struck by a CIA missile, it said.

The Times cited American intelligence officials as saying that the truck had been loaded with high explosives, apparently to be used as a bomb, and that while its ultimate target remains unclear, the bomb would have been more devastating than the suicide bombing that killed more than 50 people at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad last September.

Al Qaeda’s leaders - a predominantly Arab group of Egyptians, Saudis and Yemenis, as well as other nationalities like Uzbeks - for years have nurtured ties to Pakistani militant groups like the Taliban operating in the mountains of Pakistan.

The foreign operatives have historically set their sights on targets loftier than those selected by the local militant groups, aiming for spectacular attacks against the West, but they may see new opportunity in the recent violence, the Times said.

Intelligence officials cited by the daily said the Taliban advances in Swat and Buner, which are closer to Islamabad than to the tribal areas, have already helped Al Qaeda in its recruiting efforts.

“They smell blood, and they are intoxicated by the idea of a jihadist takeover in Pakistan,” Bruce O. Riedel, a former analyst for the CIA who recently led the Obama administration’s policy review of Pakistan and Afghanistan, was quoted as saying.

It remains unlikely that Islamic militants could seize power in Pakistan, given the strength of Pakistan’s military, according to American intelligence analysts cited by the Times.

But the daily said a senior American intelligence official expressed concern that recent successes by the Taliban in extending territorial gains could foreshadow the creation of “mini-Afghanistans” around Pakistan that would allow militants even more freedom to plot attacks.

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