The Pakistani Taliban today warned that they would target Pakistan and the US to avenge the killing of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by US special forces in a raid near the garrison city of Abbottabad.
In an audio message issued to the Pakistani media from an undisclosed location, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan confirmed the death of bin Laden, the world's most wanted man, and said his group would take revenge for his killing.
"We will avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden. Pakistan is now the first target of the Taliban and the US the second," said Ahsan, who spoke in Pashto. He warned that Pakistan's leaders were on the Taliban's hit list.
In telephone calls to journalists in northwest Pakistan shortly after the US announced the killing of bin Laden yesterday, Ahsan warned that top Pakistani leaders, including President Asif Ali Zardari, and the Pakistan Army would be the "first targets" of his group.
Ahsan also said in his audio message that the US should not be jubilant about killing bin Laden as American authorities took 10 years to find the al-Qaeda chief.
"We killed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (in 2007). After three months of planning, we sent a suicide bomber to kill her... We completed our objective in three months while the US was trailing Osama bin Laden for 10 years," he said.
US officials have often said that the Pakistani Taliban, led by Hakimullah Mehsud, has close ties to al-Qaeda. Both groups have safe havens in Pakistan's tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, the American administration has said.
Pakistan's President denies harbouring Osama bin Laden
Pakistan's president has denied suspicions that his country's security forces may have sheltered Osama bin Laden.
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari says Pakistani forces weren't involved in Monday's operation against bin Laden but that Pakistan's "decade of cooperation" with the U.S. led to his elimination.
Bin Laden was killed in a large house close to a military academy in the bustling north-western town of Abbottabad, not in the remote Afghan border region as many had assumed, raising questions over how security forces were not aware of his presence.
Zardari says in an opinion piece in Monday's Washington Post that "such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn't reflect fact." It was Pakistan's first formal comment on the suspicions.