A prominent expert on jihadist media says there is an apparent link between the new video message in which Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, once thought to have been killed, proclaims he is still alive, and a message posted overnight Saturday in which the Pakistani Taliban appears to claim credit for the failed Times Square car-bomb attack.
Rita Katz, founder of the SITE Intelligence Group, a private organization that monitors and translates extremist Web postings, late on Monday outlined a timeline her organization put together that suggests the Mehsud video and the U.S.-attack claim were both posted, at least on some sites, by the same person or persons.
Katz says that by examining data available online, she and her associates discovered that on Friday, April 30, persons unknown created a new YouTube Channel called Taliban News. Then, overnight on Saturday, only a few minutes after New York City authorities held their first broadcast news conference about the discovery and dismantling of the Times Square SUV bomb, Katz says, someone uploaded a video in which Qari Hussain Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban's reputed chief bomb expert, claimed credit for "the recent attack in the U.S.A."
Katz says that data she retrieved indicates that at about noon ET Sunday, the Taliban News channel and the video claim about Times Square were taken down. But later Sunday, a fresh YouTube channel dedicated to the Pakistani Taliban, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel, was set up. Soon afterward, Katz says, three messages were uploaded into the new YouTube channel: the original Pakistani Taliban claim of responsibility for the Times Square incident, the video in which Hakimullah Mehsud proclaims that he is still alive, and a third message threatening further attacks inside the U.S.
Katz says that at about the same time these videos were uploaded on YouTube, they were also uploaded onto specialized jihadist Web sites. The person who uploaded them has a track record of posting other Taliban videos to such sites, suggesting that this person may have some historical connection with the Pakistani Taliban. Katz says that it was not possible to determine who set up the Taliban channels on YouTube that carried the messages.
The information about the video messages' posting may be among the first evidence to surface to lay at least a tentative foundation for the possibility of a link between the Times Square incident and an overseas-based terror group like the Pakistani Taliban. Few if any terror experts in either the U.S. government or the private sector initially believed the video message from the Pakistani Taliban, which has no previous history of being interested in, or capable of, attacking targets outside the Indian subcontinent. However, the information assembled by Katz does appear to establish some kind of connection between the posting of the Taliban claim about a U.S. attack and the posting of the Hakimullah Mehsud video, which most experts believe is authentic.
One U.S. expert, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, drew attention to the fact that the Taliban claim of credit for a U.S. attack did not specifically mention Times Square, suggesting that this does at least raise doubts about what kind of advance information and real knowledge whoever made the videos had of the details of the planned New York attack.
One reason why experts inside and outside the U.S. government have been dismissive of a possible Taliban connection to the failed Times Square attack is because of the sloppy, if not idiotic, design and construction of the failed bomb. Even if there does turn out to be a connection, experts still wonder how deep it runs, given the Taliban's history of being able to pull off deadly missions—including a suicide bombing last Dec. 30 on a CIA base in Afghanistan that was touted in an Internet "martyrdom video" featuring both the Jordanian suicide bomber and Hakimullah Mehsud—and the manifest incompetence of whoever put together the car bomb planted in Times Square. News reports late Monday indicated that U.S. authorities may be closing in on a prime suspect in the Times Square incident, possibly, according to ABC News, a naturalized American of Pakistani extraction who recently spent five months in his ancestral country.