Pakistan will investigate alleged links between the man accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square and militant groups operating in the country's northwest believed to have supported the botched attack, the interior minister said Saturday.
The suspect, Faisal Shahzad, has told U.S. investigators that he trained in the lawless tribal areas of Waziristan, where both al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban operate. The Pakistani-American spent five months in his native country before returning to the United States in February.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Islamabad had received a formal request for an investigation from the U.S. that said "Shahzad visited South Waziristan and they say he met Qari Hussain and Hakimullah Mehsud."
Mehsud is the head of the Pakistani Taliban, while Hussain is the group's chief bomb maker who is also in charge of recruiting suicide attackers. Malik said Pakistani authorities needed to verify the information included in the U.S. request.
Pakistan had already promised to cooperate with the investigation and has detained at least four people with alleged connections to Shahzad, the sole suspect.
A senior U.S. military official told The Associated Press that 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.
That would significantly ramp up the pressure on Pakistan's military to crack down on extremists. Islamabad has been resisting calls to move forcefully into all parts of Waziristan because it does not want to antagonize powerful militant groups there that have so far attacked only targets in Afghanistan, not Pakistani cities.
Malik also stressed that only Pakistani investigators would be permitted to interview Shahzad's relatives and other associates.
"Pakistan's government will not allow any outside investigators to investigate our people," he said.