Taliban Blame ‘Blackwater’ for Pakistan Bombings
(NewYorkTimes) On Monday, Al Jazeera reported that a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban said the group accepted responsibility for only some of the recent suicide bombings in Pakistan, laying the blame for others, including a deadly attack on a market last month that killed more than 100 civilians, on the American security firm formerly known as Blackwater. The spokesman claimed that the firm, now called Xe, was involved in an attempt to discredit the militants by staging deadly attacks.By ROBERT MACKEY
This video report from Al Jazeera includes shots of of Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the broad alliance of Pakistani militant groups known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban, saying, “I want to tell the people in Pakistan and the Muslim nation that the Tehrik-i-Taliban are not responsible for the bombings, but Blackwater and Pakistan’s spy agency are behind them.”
According to The Associated Press, the spokesman tried to pass off blame for two recent attacks that were particularly deadly, saying:
The dirty Pakistani intelligence agencies, for the sake of creating mistrust and hatred among people against the Taliban, are carrying out blasts at places like the Islamic university, Islamabad, and the Khyber bazaar, Peshawar.
The A.P. also reported that the video, posted on YouTube on Sunday, bore the logo of Al Qaeda’s media wing, As-Sahab. The A.P. noted that this was “the first time the Taliban spokesman has appeared in an As-Sahab video,” suggesting that there are “growing links between the two groups.”
An earlier report on the Web site of The Daily Times, a publication based in Lahore, said that the spokesman had also suggested that the ruling Pakistan People’s Party was involved in the attacks, adding, “All these killings by the infamous Blackwater are aimed at maligning the Taliban.”
On Monday, Issam Ahmed of The Christian Science Monitor reported from Peshawar that some Pakistanis were ready to believe that the American private security firm is the enemy, rather than the Taliban. Mr. Ahmed reported:
The company’s operatives are often viewed by Pakistanis as akin to C.I.A. agents, and local conspiracy theories sometimes assert that the U.S. with the help of Blackwater, rather than the Taliban, are responsible for the suicide attacks. […]
According to Faizullah Jan, a lecturer at the department of journalism and mass communication at the University of Peshawar, such conspiracy theories are fed by Pakistan’s mainstream media and the proliferation of underground jihadist media outlets. “In such an environment anything which is seemingly obvious is not real, and anything which is hidden is deemed to be real,” he says.
Indeed, it is not hard to find reports in Pakistan’s media that blame American private contractors and the intelligence agencies of other countries for terrorist attacks in the country. Last month the Web site Pakistan Daily reported that a former chief of staff of Pakistan’s army had claimed in a television interview that Blackwater was involved in the assassination of Pakistan’s former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. The same Web site published an editorial days later claiming that the attacks killing Pakistani civilians were carried out by “Blackwater Talibans” working on behalf of “the underground drug mafia controlled by the Zionists.” Pointing to an even broader conspiracy the same writer suggested,
Pakistan is under the attack of various Talibans which include Indian Talibans, Israeli Talibans, Karzai Talibans… British Talibans and American Talibans which of course include Blackwater.
The fact that the United States government has employed the private security firm to work in secret inside Pakistan makes it hard to knock down the wilder conspiracy theories. My colleagues James Risen and Mark Mazzetti reported in August:
From a secret division at its North Carolina headquarters, the company formerly known as Blackwater has assumed a role in Washington’s most important counterterrorism program: the use of remotely piloted drones to kill Al Qaeda’s leaders, according to government officials and current and former employees.
The division’s operations are carried out at hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the company’s contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft, work previously performed by employees of the Central Intelligence Agency. They also provide security at the covert bases, the officials said.
Weeks after that news broke, it became fodder for the Pakistani journalist and blogger Ahmed Quraishi, who dug into the Web site of the United States Training Center, which calls itself “a Xe company,” and noticed that job applicants were directed to a form — posted on the Web site Blackwaterusa.com — that includes Urdu and Punjabi in a list of languages that prospective contractors might speak.
Mr. Quraishi took one look at that form and jumped to publish his conclusion that “hiring continues as we speak for agents and for people with military training who can speak Urdu, Pakistan’s national language, and Punjabi, spoken by the natives of Pakistan’s largest populated province.” Mr. Quraishi took no note of the fact that the list of languages applicants might be proficient in also includes German, Italian, Thai and sign language.
One imagines it won’t take long for conspiracy-minded Pakistanis reading Sunday’s report in The Los Angeles Times that the C.I.A. has been bringing “ISI operatives to a secret training facility in North Carolina” to notice that the Web site of United States Training includes a photograph of its center in Moycock, N.C. above a statement that the company “is currently training select military and other government groups from U.S.-friendly nations.”
Perhaps picking up on the popular mood, Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, reportedly blamed foreign militants for the violence during a meeting with leaders of the Mehsud tribes from Waziristan on Tuesday. According to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, Mr. Gilani “said foreign militants of Arab, Uzbek, Afghan and Chechen origin were operating in the country and were involved in terrorist activities.” Dawn also reported that the prime minister said that the tribesmen, despite their links to the former Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, were blameless:
Gilani categorically stated that the Mehsud tribes were patriotic Pakistanis and had nothing to do with the handful of terrorists who had taken refuge in their area. He lauded the role of the tribal people in the creation of Pakistan and said the nation can never forget it.