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Originally published April 1, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 1, 2009 at 11:15 AM

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Taliban claim suicide attack, threatens attack on D.C.

Pakistan's Taliban chief claimed responsibility Tuesday for a deadly assault on a police academy, saying he wanted to retaliate for U.S. missile attacks on the militant bases on the border with Afghanistan.

The Associated Press

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's Taliban chief claimed responsibility Tuesday for a deadly assault on a police academy, saying he wanted to retaliate for U.S. missile attacks on the militant bases on the border with Afghanistan.

Baitullah Mehsud, who has a $5 million bounty on his head from the United States, also vowed to "amaze everyone in the world" with an attack on Washington, D.C., or even the White House.

The FBI, however, said he had made similar threats and there was no indication of anything imminent.

Mehsud, who gave a flurry of media interviews Tuesday, has no record of actually striking targets abroad, although he is suspected of being behind a 10-man cell arrested in Barcelona in January 2008 for plotting suicide attacks in Spain.

Pakistan's former government and the CIA consider him the prime suspect behind the December 2007 killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. And Pakistani officials accuse him of harboring foreign fighters, including Central Asians linked to al-Qaida, and of training suicide bombers.

But analysts doubt that Taliban fighters carried off Monday's raid on the Lahore academy on their own, saying the group is likely working more closely than ever with militants based far from the Afghan frontier.

The group includes al-Qaida, presenting a formidable challenge to the U.S. as it increases its troop presence in the region, not to mention nuclear-armed Pakistan's own stability.

Mehsud told The Associated Press that the academy and other recent attacks were revenge for stepped-up American missile strikes into Pakistan's border badlands.

"Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world," Mehsud said in a telephone interview with an Associated Press reporter. He offered few details, though in a separate recorded conversation with local Dewa radio station he said the White House was a target.

The ruthless attack on Lahore's outskirts Monday left at least 12 people dead, including seven police, and sparked an eight-hour standoff with security forces that ended when black-clad commandos stormed the compound.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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