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Some Pak officials know where Laden is: Clinton

Last updated on: May 10, 2010 17:21 IST

Some Pak officials know where Laden is: Clinton

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said some people in the Pakistani government are aware of the whereabouts of elusive Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Omar.

The Obama Administration, meanwhile, for the first time accused Taliban of being behind the botched Times Square bombing plot.

"Some Pakistani officials were more informed about the Al Qaeda and the Taliban than they let on," Clinton told CBS in an interview.

"I'm not saying that they're at the highest levels but I believe that somewhere in this government are people who know where Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda is, where Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is, and we expect more cooperation to help us bring to justice, capture or kill, those who attacked us on 9/11," she said.

Clinton had over the weekend warned Pakistan that it would face "very severe consequences" if any terror plot like the failed Times Square bombing was traced to that country.

"We've made it very clear that if, heaven forbid, an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences," she had said.

Asked if US was not getting sufficient cooperation from Islamabad in anti-terror drive, the US top diplomat acknowledged there was a "sea change" in cooperation by Pakistani authorities, but added "we want more".

With agency inputs


Image: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Photographs: Yuri Gripas / Reuters
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'Pak Taliban behind Times Square plot'

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When asked why the Obama Administration was not piling up pressure on Islamabad to give up bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahiri, Clinton replied, "I have to stand up for the efforts the Pakistani government is taking. They have done a very significant move toward going after the terrorists within their own country."

Her comments came even as other senior US officials including Attorney General Eric Holder said they have obtained new evidence that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attempt to trigger a car bomb blast in the heart of New York.

"We know they facilitated the bomb plot and they probably also financed it," the attorney general told ABC News.

Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old naturalised American citizen of Pakistani origin was arrested last Monday for rigging a SUV vehicle to explode in the Times Square.

As the new revelations raised fresh questions about US relationship with Pakistan, Washington has responded by stepping up pressure on Pakistan to crack down on radical Islamic militants safe havens in tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

New York Times said US military commander in Afghanistan Gen Stanley A McChrystal met Pakistani military chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Islamabad on Sunday and pressed for a new military offensive in North Waziristan, the main base of the Pakistan Taliban.


Image: Members of the local Lashka hold their weapons while dancing in a show-of-force in Khar, Pakistan
Photographs: Adrees Latif / Reuters
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'Anti-India groups operate openly in Pak'

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Earlier, top US admimistration officials pointed fingers at the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan for the failed Times Square bombing attempt.

Major radical organisations, including anti-India militant groups, continue to operate openly in Pakistan, a US media report said on Monday.

"Banned groups such as Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Jaish-e- Mohammed have formed organisations with new names that operate freely. Some of their leaders have been arrested for alleged links to terrorist attacks; then released by the courts," The Washington Post said.

Meanwhile, identical statements came from United States Attorney General Eric Holder, and Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan, who blamed the Pakistan Taliban for the Times Square bomb attempt.

India has repeatedly pointed out that Pakistan has so far been reluctant to take action against anti-India terrorist groups like LeT and JeM and its leaders, against whom New Delhi has provided evidence, are still free. Validating India's contention, The Washington Post said major anti-India militant groups and other radical Sunni organisations in Punjab are still active.

Image: A member of the NYPD bomb squad Unit examines a suspicious package at Times Square
Photographs: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
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'If you hang with them, you're safe'

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"The groups have in recent years increasingly focused attacks within Punjab as provincial officials have tried to placate them, both to capitalise on their popularity and in hopes of moderating their views," it said. The paper recalled how Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was widely criticised in March for calling on the Pakistani Taliban to 'spare Punjab', which he suggested had common cause with the militants, by rejecting Western dictates.

"Another provincial minister visited the seminary of a banned group and campaigned for office with the leader of another. Jaish-e-Mohammed recently built a large walled compound in the southern Punjabi city of Bahawalpur," it said.

"These groups have not been touched," the paper quoted leading Pakistani analyst on extremism Ahmed Rashid as saying.

Image: Supporters of a Pakistani Islamic party chant anti-American slogans during a protest in Karachi
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters
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'Do we want them to do more? Yes'

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"They have been through a metamorphosis and turned their guns inward and linked up with other groups in the northwest, but no one is acknowledging it. The word is out that if you hang with them, you're safe," it said.

Brennan told the Fox News in an interview that a number of terrorist groups have been operating in Pakistan, and it needs to be made sure that "there's no support being given to them by the Pakistani government".

"They need to maintain the pressure on all of these groups. There are no militant or terrorist groups in Pakistan that should be allowed to continue there," he said.

Holder, meanwhile, said the US had evidence of the involvement of the Pakistan Taliban in the Times Square case, and Pakistan needs to do more.

"I am satisfied with the help that we've gotten from our Pakistani counterparts. Do we want them to do more? Yes. And we will be making more requests of them in the coming days," Holder said.

Both Holder and Brennan said that investigations have revealed that TTP was behind the Times Square bombing attempt.

Image: A boy looks through the main gate of the ancestral home of the family of Faisal Shahzad in Pakistan'
Photographs: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
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Nearly 40 terror camps operating along the Af-Pak border

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"We know that they helped facilitate it; we know that they helped direct it. I suspect that we are going to come up with evidence which shows that they helped to finance it. They were intimately involved in this plot," Holder said.

According to The Post, while Pakistan says it is still investigating the extent of Shahzad's militant links, some security officials have said that he definitely had ties to Jaish-e-Mohammed.

"Terrorism analyst Muhammad Amir Rana said that what appears to be a lack of political will to tackle militant organisations in Pakistan's heartland is actually rooted in a problem with far greater implications for the global battle against terror: the groups' reach and presence in cities has made them a beast that cannot easily be dismantled," it said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also issued a stern warning to Pakistan, saying if any terrorist strike against the US was traced to that country, there would be grave consequences.

Notably, in New Delhi, Russian Ambassador to India Alexander M Kadakin said that nearly 40 terror camps are still operating along the Af-Pak border.


Image: Security forces stand guard at the site of a bomb attack at the US consulate in Peshawar
Photographs: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
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'Pakistan needs to extend its fight'

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Holder said the Times Square incident is an indication of the new threat that the US faces from these terrorist organisations, these affiliates of the Al Qaeda.

"It also indicates the worldwide concerns that we have to have if we are going to be effective," he said.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake had said that Pakistan needs to take action against these Punjab-based terror outfits.

"The principal problem (that prevents the two countries from peace talks) is that of terrorism and it is important for Pakistanis to continue the important steps that they have taken against terrorism in Swat and South Waziristan and against some members of the Taliban. They should extend that fight to the groups that are based in Punjab, such as the LeT that are attacking not only India, but also the United States, and potentially could attack Pakistan itself," Blake had said.


Image: Policemen attend the funeral ceremony of five policemen killed by a Taliban bomber
Photographs: Fayaz Aziz/Reuters
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