PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A former Taliban commander says Islamic militants led by Al Qaeda want to strike quickly against American interests in Pakistan in retaliation for the death sentence in the Daniel Pearl murder case and the ongoing crackdown on Muslim extremists.
Fazul Rabi Said-Rahman, once the top Taliban military commander in eastern Afghanistan, said it was important to the militants to act quickly because Pakistani security forces were stepping up pressure on Taliban and Al Qaeda members who fled the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan.
"There will be another big attack in Pakistan, and it will happen soon," he told The Associated Press in an interview conducted Friday in a moving vehicle in this Pakistani city 40 miles from the Afghan border.
Said-Rahman predicted the attack would be carried out by Pakistani militants at the instructions of Al Qaeda operatives. But he would not discuss details except to say the attack would be carried out in a Pakistani city.
The warning was similar to one he conveyed less than three weeks before the June 14 car-bombing at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, which killed at least 12 Pakistanis. His associate, Obeidullah, a former assistant to Taliban intelligence chief Qari Ahmadullah, also had spoken of an upcoming attack shortly before the May 8 car bombing in Karachi that killed 11 French engineers and three others, including the bomber.
Said-Rahman said the attack would be in response to a death sentence handed down last week to Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, convicted in the kidnap-slaying of Pearl, the Wall Street Journal correspondent who disappeared in Karachi on Jan. 23 while researching the Muslim extremist underground.
"The Muslim brothers will do this, but the leaders will be Al Qaeda," Said-Rahman said. "The situation is very tense for them (Islamic militants) right now. They will do the attack very quickly because everyone is looking for them."
On July 15, the day the sentence against Saeed was handed down, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad cautioned Americans in an announcement posted on its Web site that "the announcement of the verdict may increase the chance of attacks against Americans."
The State Department advised Americans on Friday not to travel to Pakistan and urged U.S. citizens already here to leave, citing the Pearl verdict.
Earlier this month, police in Karachi arrested three men accused in an attempt to kill President Pervez Musharraf in April. The plot failed when a vehicle rigged with explosives did not detonate when Musharraf's convoy drove past, police said. The same vehicle subsequently was used in the U.S. Consulate bombing, according to police.
The Pakistani magazine The Independent said 100 activists from Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Kashmiri group with well-established links to Al Qaeda, have vowed to kill Musharraf.