DOJ files criminal charges against Pakistan Taliban leader

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced [press release] Wednesday that it has charged [complaint, PDF] Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimulla Mehsud [NYT profile] in connection with the December 30 attack [WP backgrounder] on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] Afghan outpost Camp Chapman that left nine people dead. Mehsud identifies himself as the head of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) [CTC Sentinel Backgrounder], a Pakistan-based terrorist cell affiliated with the Afghan Taliban. The filing in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], charges Mehsud with conspiracy to murder US citizens abroad and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against US citizens abroad. According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, Mehsud met with Jordanian physician Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi in Afghanistan shortly before al-Balawi entered Camp Chapman with explosives hidden in his clothing and detonated them, killing nine people, including seven CIA agents. Following the attack, TTP released a video of Mehsud and al-Balawi claiming responsibility for the attack and explaining their motives: "We arranged this attack to let the Americans understand that belief of Allah, the iman [faith] that we hold, the taqwa [piety] that we strive for cannot be exchanged for all the wealth in the world." The men also said that the attack was executed as revenge for the death of former TTP leader Baitullah Mehsud [BBC profile], who was killed [Guardian report] by a CIA air strike last August.

Also Wednesday, the US State Department (DOS) [official website] announced that it has declared the TTP a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) [press release] under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) [materials]. "Today's actions put the TTP and its sympathizers on notice that the United States will not tolerate support of this organization," said DOS Coordinator for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin. "TTP's destabilizing effect in Pakistan's tribal areas has resulted in innumerable civilian deaths and considerable property losses." The DOS also announced a $5 million bounty for information leading to the capture of Mehsud.

The DOJ says Hakimullah Mehsud is currently "a fugitive believed to be residing in the [Federally Administered Tribal Area] (FATA)" in the southern region of Pakistan. However, reports emerged in January suggesting that he had died [NYT report] from wounds sustained during a January 14 drone attack in the tribal region. Hakimullah Mehsud reportedly assumed leadership [BBC report] of the TTP after Baitullah's death. TTP has been implicated in or claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist acts, including multiple assaults on NATO supply lines in the FATA, a 2009 attack on a police station in the Bannu province and the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto [JURIST report], for which Baitullah Mehsud was charged [JURIST report] in a Pakistani anti-terrorism court. According to the DOJ, the TTP is believed to have coordinated most of their efforts with other terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda.

 

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