The U.S. State Department has added the Pakistani Taliban to its annual list of foreign terrorist organizations and set rewards for information leading to the capture of two of its leaders.
The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, has claimed responsibility for a failed bomb plot in New York earlier this year and other attacks across Pakistan.
At a news briefing on September 1, Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's ambassador at large for counterterrorism, said the two groups had a "symbiotic relationship. TTP draws ideological guidance from Al-Qaeda, while Al-Qaeda relies on the TTP for safe haven in the Pashtun areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border."
He said this cooperation "gives TTP access to both Al-Qaeda's global terrorist network and the operational experience of its members. Given the proximity of both groups and the nature of their relationship, TTP is a force multiplier for Al-Qaeda."
The U.S. international terrorism blacklist includes some 46 groups, including Al-Qaeda and its Iraqi branch, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Iranian exile Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization. Groups on the list are subject to financial and travel sanctions.
Meanwhile, the State Department is offering $5 million rewards for information leading to the arrest of TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud and senior commander Wali-ur-Rehman, who are believed to be in the mountainous, tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan.
Simultaneously, the Justice Department unsealed charges against Mehsud for a plot that killed seven CIA employees at a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan in December 2009. In the attack, a Jordanian doctor detonated a bomb after entering the compound outside Khost.
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the charges, which include conspiracy to kill Americans overseas and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, were part of a "multipronged U.S. government effort to disrupt and dismantle" the TTP.
Threat Inside, Outside Pakistan
Pakistan's Taliban hit the U.S. headlines this year when it claimed responsibility for a car-bomb attempt in New York's Times Square in May.
Also in May, the TTP claimed responsibility for attacks in the Pakistani city of Lahore that killed nearly 100 members of the minority Ahmadi sect.
More recently, the Taliban issued a veiled threat against foreign aid workers helping Pakistan recover from massive floods that have swept the country.
Pakistan's government has also accused the group of the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
The TTP is a loose federation of more than a dozen Pakistan-based militant factions. It maintains strongholds along the northwestern tribal belt, where the militants are also believed to be providing havens for senior Al-Qaida leaders.
Mehsud became the leader of the group in August 2009 after the death of his predecessor, Baitullah Mehsud, in a missile strike by a CIA-operated drone.
compiled from agency reports