KABUL, Afghanistan — The reclusive commander of the Pakistani Taliban boasted Tuesday that he was planning a terrorist attack in Washington that would astonish the world and said his fighters had carried out Monday's bold assault on a police academy in eastern Pakistan that ended with 11 people dead.
Baitullah Mehsud, an Islamist leader from the South Waziristan tribal area in northwest Pakistan, told reporters he was planning to attack targets in the U.S. capital in retaliation for more than 30 strikes by unmanned U.S. drones that have targeted suspected al-Qaida and Taliban sanctuaries in northwest Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan.
"Soon we will launch an attack on Washington that will amaze everyone in the world," Mehsud told the Associated Press. In a separate phone conversation, he told Agence France Presse that his forces had carried out the police academy attack near the city of Lahore as an act of revenge for the drone raids. "There will be more such attacks," he said.
Federal authorities advised police and other law enforcement officials that Mehsud's threat is an aspiration rather than evidence of an imminent or specific threat to the United States.
FBI spokesman Richard Kolko says Mehsud has made similar threats in the past.
The U.S. government has offered a $5 million reward for the capture of Mehsud, and the State Department has described him as a major "al-Qaida facilitator" in the northwest tribal region near the Afghan border, where he commands thousands of fighters.
The young, religious guerrilla leader has rarely been seen or heard in public. He has never before issued such a specific threat to do harm directly to the West.
Mehsud, believed to be in his 30s, has been accused by Pakistani authorities of masterminding the December 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.