Eight South Waziristan Taliban commanders, pictured in a wanted poster: 1. Hakeemullah Mehsud, 2. Waliur Rehman Mehsud, 3. Qari Hussain Mehsud, 4. Azam Tariq, 5. Maulvi Azmatullah, 6. Mufti Noor Wali, 7. Asmatullah Bhittani, 8. Mohammad Anwar Gandapur.
Qari Hussain Mehsud, a top Pakistani Taliban commander and trainer of suicide bombers who is known for his ruthlessness and willingness to sponsor deadly attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the US, has been added to the US State Department’s list of global terrorists.
Today under Executive Order 13224, State added Qari Hussain to the list of specially designated global terrorists. The designation allows the US to freeze his assets, prevent him from using financial institutions, and prosecute him for terrorist activities.
The designation of Qari Hussain by State refutes multiple rumors over the past several months which claimed that he was killed in a US Predator airstrike in Pakistan’s tribal agency of North Waziristan. [See LWJ report, Conflicting reports mean the death of senior Pakistani Taliban leader unlikely, and Threat Matrix report, Another rumor of Qari Hussain’s death in October Predator strike, for background on the reports.]
Jason Blazakis, the chief of the US State Department’s Terrorist Designations Unit, described the reports of Qari Hussain’s death as “rumors” and said Qari Hussain is still active in the Taliban.
“We are aware of disparate press reports in Pakistan noting Qari Hussain’s demise, but rumors of his demise are not new and have proven inaccurate before. The Department took this action because Hussain remains an active member of the TTP [or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan],” Blazakis told The Long War Journal.
In the past, US intelligence official have repeatedly told The Long War Journal that there is no indication that Qari Hussain was killed. The Taliban insist that Qari Hussain is alive, although neither he nor Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, have been seen or heard from by the media since September 2010. Both commanders have been reported dead several times in the past, only to surface after months of seclusion.
The State Department described Qari Hussain as “the deadliest of all TTP’s commanders” and attributed multiple attacks on civilian, military, police, and intelligence agency targets throughout Pakistan to him.
“Training camps organized by Hussain are notorious for recruiting and training men of all ages as suicide bombers, and Hussain has gained particular notoriety for his heavy recruitment of children,” according to the press release from State.
Over the past three years, the US has been hunting Qari Hussain with unmanned Predators and Reapers inside Pakistan for his role in training bombers such as Faisal Shahzad, the operative who came close to detonating a car bomb in Times Square in the heart of New York City on May 1, 2010. Qari Hussain trained Shahzad how to build the bomb. Qari Hussain also appeared on a Taliban propaganda tape claiming credit for the failed attack, and threatened to carry out more attacks. [For more on the Pakistani Taliban’s role in the Times Square plot, see LWJ reports, Pakistani Taliban claim credit for failed NYC Times Square car bombing, and US sees Pakistani Taliban involvement in Times Square attack after downplaying links.]
The US has also been hunting Qari Hussain for his role in training Abu Dujanah al Khurasani [Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi], the Jordanian who deceived the CIA into believing he was providing intelligence on al Qaeda’s operations in Pakistan. Khurasani killed seven CIA officials and bodyguards, and a Jordanian intelligence officer, in the Dec. 30, 2009 suicide attack against the CIA at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost province, Afghanistan. Khurasani had lured the officials by promising to have detailed intelligence on the location of Ayman al Zawahiri.
Qari Hussain is the third Pakistani Taliban leader to be designated as a terrorist by the US. On Sept. 1, 2010, the US added Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsud to the list, and also designated the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan as a terrorist entity.
Background on Qari Hussain Mehsud
Based out of South Waziristan until the military operations in the Mehsud tribal areas in the fall of 2009, Qari Hussain has since relocated to the Mir Ali region in North Waziristan. He has long been a close ally of al Qaeda.
He has served in the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, a radical anti-Shia terror group that serves as muscle for al Qaeda, and in the Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islam, under the command of Ilyas Kashmiri. Qari Hussain also served as a senior leader in the Fadayeen-i-Islam, a terror outfit that conducted numerous attacks against the Pakistani government.
Qari Hussain is known as Ustad-i-Fedayeen, or the teacher of suicide bombers. Prior to the Pakistani Army offensive in South Waziristan in October 2009, Qari Hussain ran camps in the tribal agency where children were trained to become suicide bombers. Children as young as seven years of age were indoctrinated to wage jihad in Pakistan and Afghanistan, a video taken at one of his camps in Spinkai showed.
The Pakistani military first demolished Qari Hussain’s suicide nursery during an earlier, shorter offensive against the Taliban in Spinkai in January 2008. The military launched the short operation after Taliban forces commanded by Baitullah Mehsud overran two military outposts and conducted attacks against other forts and military convoys in the tribal agency.
The military seized numerous documents and training materials in the demolished camp. In May 2008, a senior Pakistani general described the previous camp as a suicide “factory” for children. Sometime in the spring or summer of 2008, however, Qari Hussain rebuilt his child training camps in South Waziristan.
The Pakistani government has placed a $600,000 bounty out for information leading to the death or capture of Qari Hussain. He is among the top three most wanted leaders of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, along with Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsud.