INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR--PAPER NO 513
Thirteen persons at an immigration facilitation centre at Binghamton, about 230 kms from New York, were killed on April 3,2009, when a gunman wielding hand-held weapons entered the premises and opened fire indiscriminately before killing himself.
2.The CNN reported as follows in its website: "A senior law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation identified the suspect as Jiverly Wong, who is believed to be in his early 40s.Authorities executed a search warrant at Wong's home in Johnson City, near Binghamton, and spoke to the suspect's mother, the source said. Earlier in the day, Binghamton police Chief Joseph Zikuski said the gunman entered the American Civic Association building. At 10:31 a.m., authorities received a 911 call from the receptionist, who said she'd been shot in the stomach, Zikuski said. She told police that a man with a handgun also shot and killed another receptionist before proceeding to a nearby classroom, where he gunned down more victims, Zikuski said. Authorities also said a car was used to block the back door of the building. Two semi-automatic handguns -- a .45-caliber and a 9-millimeter -- were found at the center, where immigrants were believed to be taking citizenship and language classes. The shooter, who was carrying a satchel of ammunition, was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot to the head, Zikuski said. The American Civic Association helps immigrants and refugees with a number of issues, including personal counseling, resettlement, citizenship and reunification, and provides interpreters and translators, according to the Web site for United Way of Broome County, which is affiliated with the association. Zikuski said Wong, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was unemployed at the time of the shooting. He told CNN's Susan Candiotti that Wong had recently worked in a vacuum repair shop. Wong attended classes at the American Civic Association and had a connection there. "
3. It was clear from the CNN report that a recently unemployed American of Vietnamese origin, who had visited the centre in the past, had carried out the killings. One of the receptionists, who was shot, had spoken of "a man with a handgun"----thus indicating that only one person was involved.
4. On April 4,2009, a person claiming to be Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was reported to have claimed in a telephonic talk with a correspondent of the Reuters news agency that his men had carried out the attack in retaliation for the Drone strikes by the US on Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs in Pakistani territory. The Reuters despatch quoted the person who claimed to be Baitullah as saying as follows: "I accept responsibility. They are my men who attacked New York." He claimed that the attack was launched by a Pakistani man and another unidentified man.
5. A number of questions arise from this suspicious phone call. Who initiated the telephonic conversation---- the correspondent or the person who claimed to be Baitullah? If it was the correspondent, how did he know the telephone number of Baitullah? Why did it occur to the correspondent to ask Baitullah whether he had anything to do with the Binghamton incident? If it was Baitullah who initiated the call, does the correspondent recognise his voice?
7. Unless one has answers to all these questions, one has to treat the so-called claim with skepticism. While sections of the Indian media gave more than the deserved importance to the claim, foreign media such as the BBC and the CNN treated it with tremendous caution. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the US itself is reported to have discounted the claim.While the BBC reported it in its web site in a low-key manner, the CNN chose not to disseminate the claim without verification.
8. The questions still without an answer are: Was it an impersonator, who posed as Baitullah and took the correspondent for a ride or was it Baitullah himself making a false claim? If it was an impersonator, Baitullah would have by now come out with a denial. He has not. If it was Baitullah himself who made the false claim, why did he do so? Is he facing criticism from his followers for not being able to retaliate against the Americans for their Drone (unmanned planes) attacks on Al Qaeda and Taliban hide-outs?
9. There was an interesting development after the terrorist attack on the Manawan police school in the Lahore area on March 30. Immediately after the attack, a self-styled Taliban operative who identified himself as Omar Farooq was reported to have telephoned a correspondent of the Associated Press to claim that a group called Fedayeen al-Islam had carried out the attack and that he was speaking on their behalf. He reportedly said: “As long as the Pakistani troops do not leave tribal areas, these attacks will continue.”The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and some Western news agencies reported on March 31 that they were in receipt of a phone call from Baitullah Mehsud claiming responsibility for the attack. He was quoted as saying that the attack was "in retaliation for the continued drone strikes by the US in collaboration with Pakistan on our people". According to the BBC, Baitullah said the attacks would continue "until the Pakistan Government stops supporting the Americans". He also reportedly warned of future retaliatory attacks on American soil. According to some journalistic contacts who also received the call from Omar Farooq, he projected his organisation as different from the TTP. Baitullah himself is reported to have pooh-poohed the claim of Omar Farooq.
10. There are good reasons to suspect that Baitullah is under pressure from his followers to do something big against the Americans in retaliation for the Drone strikes. Till now, he has been hitting back against the Pakistani security forces to give vent to his anger against the Americans.(5-4-09)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )