Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, appeared on a recent videotape directing the execution of a former intelligence officer who is known as one of the fathers of the Taliban. Hakeemullah’s appearance on the tape ends months of speculation and erroneous news reports that the Taliban chief was killed in a US Predator airstrike last fall.
The Pakistani Taliban leader appeared on a videotape that showed the execution of Colonel Imam, one of the original Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence directorate officers who guided and nurtured the Afghan Taliban during their rise to power in the mid 1990s.
On the videotape released today, Hakeemullah is seen standing behind Colonel Imam, who is first seen sitting on the ground. Imam is directed to stand, then one of Hakeemullah’s armed henchmen brutally shoots Imam several times. Hakeemullah and the armed men are then seen chanting.
In March of 2010, the Taliban, under the guise of the so-called Asian Tigers, kidnapped Imam, Khalid Kwawaja, a former ISI officer-turned-lawyer who defended numerous jihadis in Pakistani courts, and a British journalist as they visited the tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan. The three men had entered the tribal agencies ostensibly to create a documentary, but are suspected of having attempted to negotiate a peace agreement on behalf of the Pakistani military. The Taliban executed Khawaja in April 2010, having accused him of working for the ISI and the CIA. The British journalist was released five months later.
Before the execution of Khawaja, the Taliban demanded that Pakistan release Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former leader of the Afghan Taliban’s Quetta Shura; Maulvi Abdul Kabir, the former leader of the Afghan Taliban’s Peshawar Regional Military Council; and Mullah Mansur Dadullah Akhund, a former military commander in the Afghan south.
Since that time, Baradar and Kabir appear to have been released, but Dadullah is thought to still be in custody.
Today’s videotape is the first in which Hakeemullah has appeared since the summer of 2010. Although it was rumored that Hakeemullah had been killed in an early October Predator airstrike in North Waziristan along with Qari Hussain Mehsud, his deputy and the Taliban’s master trainer of suicide bombers, The Long War Journal has been skeptical of such reports from the beginning. Azam Tariq, the Taliban’s top spokesman, has insisted throughout that Hakeemullah and Qari Hussain were alive. In January, the US State Department said that Qari Hussain was alive after adding him to the list of specially designated global terrorists.
Hakeemullah is a close ally of al Qaeda, and has sworn allegiance to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Hakeemullah directs terror attacks against the Pakistani state, supports attacks against US and Afghan forces across the border, and ordered the failed Times Square bombing that took place on May 1, 2010. Both Hakeemullah and Qari Hussain appeared in videotapes claiming responsibility for the attack, while Faisal Shahzad, the failed bomber, was traced back to Pakistan and was later seen on a propaganda tape with Hakeemullah.
Hakeemullah also aided in the Dec. 30, 2009 suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost province, Afghanistan, that killed five CIA officials, including a base chief, as well as two bodyguards and a Jordanian intelligence officer. Hakeemullah was featured on the martyrdom tape with the suicide bomber, Abu Dujana al Khorasani.
The CIA has targeted Hakeemullah and Qari Hussain in several Predator strikes over the past several years for their involvement in multiple terror attacks in South Asia and the attempted Times Square bombing. Hakeemullah has promised he would continue to strike at the US.
For more information on Hakeemullah Mehsud, see LWJ report, US Treasury sanctions Pakistani Taliban, top two leaders.
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