Expert dismisses terror leader's massacre claim

Claims by a Pakistani militant leader that his group was responsible for the shootings in New York are “opportunistic” and there is no evidence to support them, a leading terror expert said today.

Professor Paul Wilkinson, chairman of the University of St Andrews Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, said it seemed “unlikely” that terrorists were involved in the shootings as the evidence so far seemed to point to a lone gunman with no political message.

He was speaking after Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack on the immigration services centre in Binghamton in New York State.

“My assessment at the moment is that we don’t have any corroborating evidence that would support Mehsud’s claim and that it seems rather unlikely so we should be extremely cautious about the claim,” Prof Wilkinson said.

“There have been a number of these dreadful, tragic gun attacks recently across America and this appears to be of that kind.”

He said the police investigation was still ongoing but the early indications were that there was “one lone gunman”.

“There have been no reports of any political statements or threats to link this with extremists in Pakistan or Afghanistan,” he said.

Prof. Wilkinson added it appeared to be an “opportunistic claim”.

But he said: “We should be vigilant and aware that there is a continuing threat from that quarter (extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan) but I don’t see this particular act as fitting in to that. It would be unlikely.”

The shootings take the death toll in a string of attacks in the US over the last month to more than 40.

A gunman killed 10 people and himself in Samson, Alabama, and shootings that began with a traffic stop by police in Oakland, California, left four officers and the gunman dead.

An apparent murder-suicide in Santa Clara, California, left six dead and a gunman went on a rampage at a nursing home in North Carolina killing seven elderly residents and a nurse who cared for them.

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