US Treasury sanctions Pakistani Taliban, top two leaders
Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsud, before the Pakistani Army launched the South Waziristan offensive.
Years after its appearance as a major terrorist organization, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan was today named as a terrorist entity by the US Treasury, and the group's top two leaders were listed as foreign terrorists.
Today under Executive Order 13224, the Treasury designated the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan as a terrorist entity, and Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman Mehsud as specially designated global terrorists. The designation allows the US to freeze the assets of the Pakistani Taliban and its two senior leaders, prevent them from using financial institutions, and prosecute them for terrorist activities.
Hakeemullah, Waliur, and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is also known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, have been involved in multiple terror attacks inside Pakistan and in neighboring Afghanistan, as well as in the failed Times Square car bombing in New York City on May 1, 2010.
Hakeemullah is the emir, or top leader, of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, while Waliur is the leader of the Taliban in South Waziristan, the heartland of the terror movement. Over the past several years, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has taken control of large swaths of territory in Pakistan's tribal areas as well as in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the Northwest Frontier Province) and Baluchistan. The Taliban shelter al Qaeda and other Pakistani, Central Asian, and South Asian terror groups.
In its statement today, the US State Department described the Pakistani Taliban as an al Qaeda affiliate.
"TTP [ Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] and al Qaeda have a symbiotic relationship; TTP draws ideological guidance from al Qaeda, while al Qaeda relies on TTP for safe haven in the Pashtun areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border," said the statement released by State. "This mutual cooperation gives TTP access to both al Qaeda's global terrorist network and the operational experience of its members. Given the proximity of the two groups and the nature of their relationship, TTP is a force multiplier for al Qaeda."
Both Hakeemullah and Waliur have also been added today to the Rewards for Justice website. The Taliban leaders now have a $5 million bounty out for information leading to their capture and prosecution.
In the fall of 2009, the Pakistani government placed an estimated $600,000 bounty out for Hakeemullah and Waliur. Both men are wanted for terrorist attacks against the military, police, the government, and civilians inside Pakistan.
Image of Hakeemullah Mehsud (left) and Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi (right) on a videotape released on the Internet.
Hakeemullah has appeared on several videotapes with al Qaeda operatives who have conducted attacks against US interests in the US and in Afghanistan. In early January 2010, Hakeemullah appeared on a videotape with Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi, the al Qaeda operative who killed seven US CIA operatives and guards, and a Jordanian intelligence official, in a suicide bombing at Combat Outpost Chapman on Dec. 30, 2009. Balawi, who was also known as Abu Dujanah al Khurasani, was a Jordanian Islamist who was thought to have been turned against al Qaeda. He was a longtime Internet jihadi who had been recruited by Jordanian intelligence to provide targeting information for the US' covert air campaign against al Qaeda's leaders and operations in Pakistan's tribal areas.
On the tape, Balawi said he carried out the suicide attack to avenge the death of Baitullah Mehsud, Hakeemullah's predecessor, who was killed in a US airstrike in South Waziristan on Aug. 5.
"We will never forget the blood of our emir Baitullah Mehsud," Balawi said. "We will always demand revenge for him inside America and outside. It is an obligation of the emigrants who were welcomed by the emir [Baitullah]."
Today, in addition to the terror designation, the US Justice department has charged Hakeemullah with counts of "conspiracy to murder US citizens abroad and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against US citizens abroad" for his involvement in the suicide attack on Combat Outpost Chapman.
And earlier this year, Hakeemullah appeared with failed Times Square car bomber Faisal Shahzad in a short videoclip that was released in July.
"Today, along with the leader of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Hakeemullah Mehsud and under the command of Amir al-Mumineen Mullah Mohammed Omar Mujahid (may Allah protect him), we are planning to wage an attack on your side, inshallah (god willing)," Shahzad said. "Amir al-Mumineen" means the leader or commander of the faithful. Mullah Omar is recognized as their overall leader by Taliban commanders on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Image of Hakeemullah Mehsud (left) and Faisal Shahzad (right) on a videotape obtained by Flashpoint Partners.
Background on the Taliban's involvement in the Times Square plot
On May 3, Shahzad was detained by the FBI when he tried to flee the country, just two days after attempting to detonate a car bomb in Times Square in New York City. He has pled guilty to 10 counts of terror activities, including attempting to detonated a weapon of mass destruction, and has cooperated with the FBI. Shahzad will be sentenced in October.
Shahzad has admitted to the FBI that he was trained in a Taliban camp in Waziristan beginning in late 2009, and that he received money from the organization twice after returning to the US in early 2010.
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, led by Hakeemullah Mehsud, claimed credit for the failed Times Square bombing within hours of the failed attack. Two top leaders of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan who are currently thought to be sheltering in North Waziristan released tapes claiming the attack and threatening more attacks in the US. But senior US officials initially dismissed the reports and speculated that the attack was carried out by a "lone wolf."
In the early morning of May 2, a person identifying himself as a member of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel sent The Long War Journal the location of an audiotape made by Qari Hussain Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban master trainer of suicide bombers. In the tape, which had been uploaded to a YouTube site created by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel, Qari Hussain took credit for the failed bombing.
Significantly, Qari Hussain's audiotape was uploaded on April 30, one day before the failed attack, and the Taliban news channel was also created on April 30. On May 2, YouTube quickly removed the audiotape and shut down the site.
Sixteen hours after receiving the initial Taliban contact, The Long War Journal was contacted by a person using a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan email address who pointed to the location of a new YouTube website with both an audio and a video tape of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. In these tapes, Hakeemullah officially broke his months-long silence, denied that he had been killed in a US strike in Pakistan on Jan. 14, and threatened more attacks in the US.
US officials initially described the Times Square plot as a lone wolf attack and downplayed links to to the Pakistani Taliban despite the existence of the tapes. But one week after the attack, the Obama administration admitted that Shahzad was indeed linked to the Taliban.