Pakistan Taliban leader alive, videos seem to show. Two videos released this weekend appear to provide further evidence that Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud is indeed alive, following on reports last week that he had not in face been killed in a missile attack last January.
In the videos, which seem to have been recorded in April, Mehsud seemed to take responsibility for last weekend's attempted car bombing in Times Square, and promised further attacks on American cities. In one of them he claims his group's main targets will from now on be American cities, while standing next to a U.S. map showing explosions in three cities. The map is not detailed enough to indicate which cities were selected.
More details from the AP:
One of the videos, broadcast on Pakistani television, shows Mehsud sitting in between two masked, armed men. In the background is a banner featuring crossed swords and an Arabic verse.
Speaking in Pashto, but with English subtitles, Mehsud assures viewers he was not killed in a missile strike or any other way, referring to specific reports of his death as lies and propaganda.
"(Praised be to God), on the 4th day of April 2010, I give good news to the Muslim (world) about being alive and healthy," Mehsud says in the nearly 9 minute clip.
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The second clip is 2 minutes, 19 seconds long, and has a still picture of Mehsud next to a map of the United States showing explosions in three cities coast to coast, according to IntelCenter, a U.S.-based militant media monitor.
Update: The Times of India reports that the Pakistan Taliban has since denied involvement in the Times Square bomb plot. Spokesman Azam Tariq says of the video which claimed responsibility, "We don't know about this video. As far as I know, none of our people have posted the video. We have no information about it."
Tariq said that the second video, in which Mehsud threatened to attack the United States, was genuine.
Civilian casualties spike in Afghanistan. According to a report by the Afghan government, 173 civilians died as a result of violence in Afghanistan between March 21 and April 21. This is 33% more than during the same period in the previous year, reports the Washington Post. Though the report does not indicate who was responsible for these deaths, the United Nations has reported in the past that most civilian fatalities are caused by the Taliban.
This news comes after a roadside bomb attack struck a minibus in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 7 civilians and injuring at least 14.
Karzai seeks green light from Obama on peace talks with insurgents. The Afghan president's advisors say he will raise the idea with Obama during his visit to Washington on May 12th, and at an international summit slated to take place in Kabul in July, reports the Washington Post.
According to diplomats in Kabul, Karzai is not yet interested in engaging in high-level talks with the Taliban, as a power-sharing deal with the Taliban would loosen his grip on power. Instead, Karzai wants to make a series of one-off deals with individual insurgent commanders.
He also hopes to gain international support for his nascent plan to re-integrate low-level militants by offering them amnesty. Reformed militants would be offered courses in literacy and Islam, followed by employment. But Karzai, the Post's Joshua Partlow reports, has already launched "a host of other mismanaged and underfunded" reintegration programs that have "failed in the past to persuade large numbers of insurgents to stop fighting."