I suppose we should have seen this one coming, but the tragedy here in Binghamton, New York has taken on a brief, international flair as FoxNews reports that the Taliban is claiming responsibility for the shooting. Since I’ve been covering the story for you right from the neighborhood, I suppose we’ll have to touch on this as part of our update.
A Pakistani Taliban militant leader has claimed responsibility for the attack on a U.S. immigration center in New York state in which 13 people were killed, Reuters reported.
“I accept responsibility. They were my men. I gave them orders in reaction to U.S. drone attacks,” Baituallah Mehsud told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location on Saturday.
I’m glad to see that at least some security analysts are already writing this off as a “publicity stunt.” Mr. Mehsud isn’t a very good attack planner if he doesn’t know how many gunmen he has working for him. They weren’t “his men” since there was only one man. I’ve been checking in with some of the local reporters and law enforcement folks in the community and, while information is still sketchy and the investigation is ongoing, the odds of Mr. Voong being some sort of deep cover Taliban mole are looking sketchy to put it kindly.
The shooter was previously reported to have worked and been laid off from IBM, a story later contradicted in other sources saying he worked for Endicott Interconnect Technologies. (EIT) I have some history with those groups myself, so let’s clear that up first.
This suburb of Binghamton was the original home of IBM for many decades, at one time employing roughly 20,000 people. In recent years that number had dwindled to less than a fifth the size and IBM was threatening to close down the entire plant. EIT was formed by a consortium of local business leaders in a complex deal involving state and federal tax incentives, Empire Zone grants and cooperative agreements with IBM. They bought the entire campus with an arrangement to lease back portions of it to IBM so they would keep some of the jobs in the area. EIT also used portions of the plant for their own business and leased out sections to other businesses. Where in this complex Mr. Voong worked is still a mystery but he lost his job some time over the winter, taking a new job in Binghamton which he also subsequently lost.
He also had a family in the area, but his wife and children had apparently left him. He was a legal U.S. citizen, having lived here for nearly thirty years, but had weak language skills and was described as something of an outsider with few friends, who felt that he didn’t receive much “respect.”
Early reports also claimed he entered the Civic Association building with a hunting rifle, but it turned out that he had two handguns – a 9 mm and a .45 caliber, along with a satchel full of ammunition. Officers have indicated that both of his guns were legally registered.
The death toll stands at 13 victims plus the shooter himself, with four people injured and taken to two local hospitals, with two of the victims remaining there in serious condition. Those include the receptionist who was shot in the abdomen as soon as Voong entered and “played dead” while calling 911 on her cell phone.
None of this really adds up to the picture of an Afghani Taliban fighter hiding out in Upstate New York. As more details emerge, we’ll keep you updated.