Exclusive: Pakistani Taliban vow revenge attacks on U.S. targets
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan's Taliban, a close ally of al Qaeda, plans to attack American targets abroad to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden, said one of its senior leaders.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, has delivered on threats to avenge the killing of bin Laden by U.S. special forces in a Pakistani town on May 2.
It bombed an American consulate convoy, laid siege to a naval base and blew up paramilitary cadets in Pakistan, which the Taliban sees as a U.S. puppet and Washington regards as indispensable in its war on militancy.
Omar Khalid Khorasani, the top Taliban commander in Mohmand, one of Pakistan's unruly tribal agencies, agreed to answer questions posed by Reuters and record them on a DVD.
The video starts with him and some associates sitting on the floor of a mud-walled house, eating mango slices and joking. Then he turns serious and speaks about the TTP's intentions.
Recent TTP attacks in Pakistan were only the start of bloody reprisals after bin Laden's death.
"These attacks were just a part of our revenge. God willing, the world will see how we avenge Osama bin Laden's martyrdom," said Khorasani. "We have networks in several countries outside Pakistan."
The questions were delivered to Khorasani's associates in Mohmand, and then he recorded his answers on tape and sent then back to a Reuters reporter who had interviewed him in the past.
The TTP has not demonstrated the ability to stage sophisticated attacks in the West. Its one apparent bid to carnage in the United States failed.
It 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.
Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud appeared in a video with the Jordanian double agent who blew himself up in a well-fortified U.S. base in Afghanistan last year, in the second most deadly attack in CIA history. Seven CIA officials were killed.
"Our war against America is continuing inside and outside of Pakistan. When we launch attacks, it will prove that we can hit American targets outside Pakistan," said Khorasani, a tall man with a beard and shoulder-length hair common among the ethnic Pashtun warriors of tribal areas along the Afghan border.
The TTP has built up a long C.V. of bloodshed, carrying out suicide bombings which often kill dozens. The organization gained most of its experience waging an insurgency inside Pakistan.
A loose alliance of a dozen groups, the TTP intensified its battle against the state in 2007, after a bloody army raid on Islamabad's Red Mosque, which was controlled by its allies.
Sitting with a pistol strapped to his waist and flanked by two of his comrades with AK-47 assault rifles, Khorasani said the death of bin Laden would not demoralize the Taliban.
It had in fact, injected a "new courage" into its fighters, said Khorasani, the top Taliban commander in Mohmand agency.
"The ideology given to us by Osama bin Laden and the spirit and courage that he gave to us to fight infidels of the world is alive," said Khorasani, wearing a brown shalwar kameez, traditional baggy trousers and tunics, and a round top hat.
ZAWAHRI THE LEADER
He described Ayman al-Zawahri, the former Egyptian physician who is the likely successor to bin Laden, as the Pakistani Taliban's "chief and supreme leader."
The Pakistani Taliban are closely linked with the Afghan Taliban. They move back and forth through the porous border and exchange intelligence and provide shelter for each other in a region U.S. President Barack Obama has described as "the most dangerous place in the world."
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday there could be political talks with the Afghan Taliban by the end of this year if NATO made more military advances.
If the Afghan Taliban lay down their weapons there will be no let up in the Pakistani Taliban campaign to impose its version of Islam which would see women covered from head to toe and those deemed immoral publicly whipped or executed.
"Even if some rapprochement is reached in Afghanistan, our ideology, aim and objective is to change the system in Pakistan," said Khorasani.
"Whether there is war or peace throughout the world, our struggle for the implementation of Islamic system in Pakistan will continue."
It seems the TTP expects to wage holy war for generations.
In another video clip provided by Khorasani, a young boy wearing a camouflage ammunition belt shuffles along the ground, weighed down by a Kalashnikov rifle hung over his shoulder.
(Writing by Zeeshan Haider and Michael Georgy and Sanjeev Miglani)
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