Pakistan Taliban Leader Charged in CIA Attack

Friday, 03 Sep 2010 10:59 AM

By Steve Emerson

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Federal prosecutors on Wednesday filed a two-count criminal complaint against Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in connection with a suicide bomb attack last December that killed seven CIA employees in Afghanistan.

The complaint charges Mehsud with conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens abroad and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.

In a parallel effort, the State Department designated the TTP, commonly known as the Pakistan Taliban, as a terrorist group and announced a cash reward of $5 million each for information on Mehsud and another Taliban leader, Wali Ur Rehman.

The designation was announced by Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism, at a news briefing Wednesday. "The TTP is very much part of the most dangerous terrorist threat the United States faces," Benjamin said.

Formed in late 2007, the TTP is a loose umbrella of Pashtun and Punjabi terrorist groups from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North West Frontier Province that joined hands under a common banner to force the withdrawal of Pakistani troops from the FATA region and establish Sharia rule in the tribal territories.

The coalition also seeks to fight U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan and wage attacks against American targets and Pakistani government and civilian targets.

The Pakistan Taliban has been alleged to be behind the December 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The group has also claimed responsibility for the failed Times Square bombing in May.

Hakimullah Mehsud took over the TTP leadership following the death of his cousin and top Taliban commander from South Waziristan Baitullah Mehsud in a U.S. missile strike in August 2009.

An affidavit in support of the complaint provides new details on the Dec. 30, 2009, suicide attack that killed the CIA officials. On that day, Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian physician, arrived at the CIA outpost near the Afghan town of Khost in a car allegedly for a pre-planned meeting.

Eyewitness accounts describe al-Balawi wearing traditional Afghan clothing and carrying a crutch or a cane. He was observed reaching under his clothing and detonating an explosive device that killed seven CIA employees and injured six other U.S. citizens.

Following the attack, Umar studios, the media arm of the TTP, released a video of Mehsud and al-Balawi in which they discussed launching an attack against the Americans in retaliation for the death of former TTP leader Baitullah Mehsud.

In the video, Mehsud describes al-Balawi as "a holy warrior" who aspired to be a "suicide bomber." The video also depicts Al-Balawi justifying the prospective attack and predicting similar attacks in the future: "This itishhadi [martyrdom-seeking attack] will be the first of the revenge operations against the Americans."

"Today's charges underscore our continuing commitment to seek justice for Americans who are murdered or victimized by overseas terrorist attacks," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security David Kris.

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