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Terrorists may target U.S., West, experts say

| Sunday, May 9, 2010

WASHINGTON -- The failed bombing in New York's Times Square is a possible signal that militant leaders in Pakistan have shifted their focus to targets in the United States and other Western countries, instead of sticking to their home base, according to American counterterrorism officials.

The attack, they warned, could be only the first by terrorist groups that seek to avoid detection by using simpler methods that are more independently planned. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

U.S. investigators and intelligence agencies are trying to establish whether accused bomber Faisal Shahzad was trained or recruited for the Times Square operation by any Pakistan-based terrorist organization, including the Pakistani Taliban. Shahzad, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, spent five months in Pakistan before returning to the United States in February and preparing his attack.

A senior military official said investigators believe Shahzad had bomb-making training in Pakistan, sponsored in part by elements of the Pakistani Taliban.

If those suspicions prove correct, it suggests that groups based in Pakistan, including the Taliban along the Afghan border, may be taking on a more global approach after years of focusing attacks largely on government or coalition forces in their region.

The counterterrorism officials say the Times Square attempt shows a continuing shift to opportunistic attacks by the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups that don't have much money for overseas operations. So they use whatever method they can afford, wherever they happen to find a willing operative. As a result, American authorities must figure out how to deal with less predictable patterns of behavior.

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