Intelligence officials are pouring over a Talibans' "Grad" video to authenticate the video showing hundreds of celebrating trainees "graduating" prior to departing on suicide bombing missions in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
If confirmed, security analysts will be tasked with advising governments on what the video represents:
A legitimate warning of coming attacks, which jihadists are required to issue under Islamic law? A strategic deception to draw away western security resources from genuine terror plots? Or propaganda to stoke public fear and boost the morale of supporters?
Already clear is that the Taliban recently merged its propaganda and field operations with the global al-Qaeda terror network and wants to move its war outside Afghanistan and onto a global scale.
"As we have a counter-terrorism coalition, they have a jihadist coalition," said Martin Rudner, director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University. "That's worrisome because we know they're sharing tradecraft. We know they're sharing networking." He said the video should "be taken very seriously."
What's more, recent arrests, including that of a Canadian, and news reports from Pakistan, suggest increased militant training for suspected suicide bombing missions, possibly involving westerners striking targets in North America and Europe.
Shot by an invited Pakistani journalist June 9 somewhere in the Afghan-Pakistan border region and broadcast late Monday by ABC News, the footage shows a large group of about 300 masked men, including some boys appearing as young as 12, attending a "graduation ceremony" before apparently being dispatched by al-Qaeda and Afghanistan's Taliban movement on suicide missions to Canada, the United States, Britain and Germany.
Pictured here: Mansoor Dadullah
Mansoor Dadullah, brother of the former Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, who was killed last month, is seen attending the ceremony. He addresses the seated recruits as guards with rocket launchers stand by.
"These Americans, Canadians, British and Germans come here to Afghanistan from faraway places. Why shouldn't we go after them?" he said, referring to countries with forces patrolling Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.
"Praise be to God that the enthusiasm of these people is so strong that the people are going by crowds to martyrdom and to sacrifice themselves."
One photo taken from the video and posted on the ABC News website shows a group of more than a dozen masked figures purportedly assigned to attack Canadian targets. Other photos show "brigades" tasked with assaults against the United States, Britain and Germany.
Newsweek magazine in December reported al-Qaeda was operating training camps in Pakistan's North Waziristan border region with Afghanistan with the help of foreign militants and schooling recruits, including westerners, in suicide bombing and for missions in Britain or the United States.
ABC News also reports that Pakistani officials picked up three foreign militants last week -- two of whom held German passports.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day yesterday characterized the video as a "PR move on behalf of a terror organization.
"While we're not immune from threats and no system is 100-per-cent perfect, we feel confident that people coming from a group like that would be detected," he said. "Their capability is limited, because there is a lot of internal intelligence that points out who certain individuals are and they do have a limited ability to travel and get through our border systems."
His comments appear to dismiss the possibility some of the trainee bombers in the video could, if genuine, be Canadians who could easily return home.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service said yesterday it is taking the threat seriously. "This is single source information at this point," cautioned CSIS spokeswoman Barbara Campion. "Everyone's going to ask, 'Is it disinformation, is it real?' So we're making every effort to corroborate or discount it using independent information. Our job is to advise government and they want to know."