Shahzad close friend of 26/11 mastermind: Report



Shahzad close friend of 26/11 mastermind: Report New York: Times Square terror bombing plot suspect Faisal Shahzad was a childhood friend of one of the alleged masterminds of the 2008 Mumbai massacre, a media report said, as US investigators traced his links to another Pakistani militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Quoting sources, ABC news said Shahzad was a close childhood friend of one of the alleged masterminds of the Mumbai carnage, in which more than 166 people were killed.

However, the television network did not identify the Pakistani mastermind. While the lone surviving terror gunman involved in the massacre, Ajmal Amir Kasab, has been sentenced to death by an Indian court, seven other suspects including LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, are facing trial in a Pakistani court.

The Pakistani Taliban are denying any role in the botched car bombing, but have praised Shahzad for a "brave job done", ABC said, adding that the suspected bomber was also in contact with former Tehreek-e-Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US missile strike in 2009.

"The Mehsuds had been family friends of Shahzad, who is a son of a former high ranking Pakistani military officer," the American television network said quoting Pakistani sources.

The US authorities are pressing Shahzad on his claims of terrorist training and a high level FBI team is in Karachi to question four apprehended members of Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group.

Shahzad was in touch with a man named Mohammad Rehan who helped him to travel to Peshawar and then to Waziristan and introduced him to Taliban.

Rehan is one of the four suspected Jaish militants picked up by Pakistani intelligence for questioning as a search for Shahzad's terror links has led US and Pakistani investigators to Karachi's Bathha mosque and religious school.

Rehan, ABC reported was detained as he left the mosque after early morning prayers on Tuesday. The mosque is run by Islamist militant group Jaish and Masood Azhar, the founder of the outfit who was released from an Indian jail in 1999 in exchange for a hijacked Indian Airlines plane, is a frequent visitor.

Azhar was freed along with two other dreaded militants Sheikh Omar, who is on death row in a Pakistani prison convicted of beheading Wall Street reporter Daniel Pearl and Kashmiri militant Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar. The three met al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden before leaving Kandahar for Pakistan, US media reports said.

ABC said Jaish-e-Mohammad operated terrorist training camps in Afghanistan during Taliban regime. The American television network said an official briefed on FBI interrogation had said that Shahzad had told federal agents that he was angry at CIA missile strikes in Pakistan and suffered a personal crisis.

He also reportedly said that he carried out the attempted bombing because he was under duress and that he feared for his family's safety if he didn't fulfil the mission.

ABC also said that Shahzad was also in contact with notorious Yemeni cleric Anwar Awlaki. The New York Times reported that Shahzad was "inspired" by the words of the radical cleric who is a US citizen.

So far, seven men have been arrested in connection with the foiled bomb plot in Times Square. Shahzad continues to cooperate with the FBI in giving information about the foiled bomb plot.

Based on the several round of interrogation of Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomb suspect, and initial investigations both in the US and Pakistan, authorities now say that the Pakistani American had ties with the Pakistani Taliban.

However, media reports said, the federal investigating authorities have so far not been able to determine the nature of those ties.

"A US official said earlier in the day that connections to TTP were "plausible," but noted that numerous connections among insurgent groups in Pakistan made it difficult to zero in on a single responsible group" CNN reported.

The advance came shortly after a senior US official said that new leads developed from the Pakistani end of the investigation show Shahzad likely had training in Pakistan from extremists.

"A senior US Official now says there are new leads that show that the Times Square bomb suspect, Faisal Shahzad, did likely get training in Pakistan. US investigators there have questioned men suspected of ties to a Pakistani militant group and they're continuing to connect the dots here in the United States.

PTI