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Pakistan Investigating New York Terror Links

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Pakistan says it is investigating links between Taliban militants operating in the country and the suspect arrested in New York after Saturday's failed car bombing in Times Square.  Officials in Islamabad say reports of arrests made in Pakistan in connection with the incident are "incorrect."

U.S authorities accuse Pakistani-born American national, Faisal Shehzad, of trying to detonate a car bomb Saturday in New York's busy Times Square.   The 30-year-old suspected bomber is alleged to have said he received explosives training in Pakistan's volatile Waziristan tribal region, a known stronghold of local Taliban militants.  

Pakistan army spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas tells VOA it is too early to know whether the U.S. suspect has made a credible statement.

"We are investigating the matter and unless and until we establish some credibility in this whole claim it would be premature to really comment on that," he said

Pakistani officials called media reports of arrests made in Pakistan in connection with the incident "incorrect."

The army spokesman also says he does not believe the Pakistani Taliban were behind the New York terror incident as the insurgent group has claimed.

"In the past also they have been claiming, and anybody can get up and claim anything, but one has to assess the reach or the capability of that organization, that outfit, whether it is capable of doing that or not.  So there is a big question on that," said the spokesman.

Pakistani security forces are engaged in a prolonged offensive in the South Waziristan tribal region and have claimed to have uprooted Taliban terrorist training camps there.  But the military has resisted international pressure to launch an anti-militancy operation in the neighboring North Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan.  The region is believed to be the hub of Afghan and al-Qaida fighters that launch cross-border attacks with the help of Pakistani Taliban.

The suspected bomber is the son of a former air force officer who grew up in a tiny northwestern village known as Mohib Banda.  Residents and relatives in the village say news of Shehzad's arrest has surprised everyone.  Kifayat Ali Khan is a cousin of Shehzad.

"Actually, it was shocking news for all of the family as well as the local inhabitants that he was arrested along with a motor car having a bomb [in it].  The family of Faisal Shehzad is very respected in the area," said Khan.

Analysts like former Pakistani interior secretary Tasneem Noorani say it is difficult to believe the suspect acted alone.

"This young man [Faisal Shehzad] was supposed to have visited Pakistan almost a year back.  So whatever facilities, whatever things that he needed could not have come from Pakistan.  They must have been provided internally or he must have managed it through his own contacts internally," said Noorani.

Pakistan Peoples Party parliament member Palwasha Behram dismisses fears the arrest of the Pakistani-American will lead to a U.S. backlash against Pakistanis.

"I do not think the people-to-people contact can be reversed at any point in time because both the Americans and the Pakistanis have invested too much in building this, especially the Americans have invested too much in trying to bridge the gap that exists on ground between the people of Pakistan and the United States of America.  I am positive that any [such] act of an individual will not reverse that," said Behram.

Relations between Pakistan and the United States have strengthened since Islamabad joined the U.S,-led fight against terrorism eight years ago.

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