US designates Pakistani Taliban a foreign terrorist organization, hits group with sanctions

Published September 01, 2010

| Associated Press

The Obama administration on Wednesday added the Pakistani Taliban to its international terrorism blacklist, targeting the group blamed for the failed car bombing in New York's Times Square and its leaders with financial and travel sanctions.

The group, known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban or TTP, threatens U.S. national security, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a notice published in the Federal Register. She designated the group a "foreign terrorist organization" under U.S. law.

Clinton named the group and its top leaders, Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali Ur Rehman, "specially designated global terrorists," a classification that imposes additional State and Treasury department sanctions.

The State Department has placed a $5 million bounty on Mehsud and Rehman under its Rewards for Justice Program, for information leading to their arrest and capture.

Each has "committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States," Clinton said in the notice.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or Pakistani Taliban Movement, is a loose federation of tribal and regional factions initially led by Baitullah Mehsud. It maintains strongholds along the northwestern tribal belt, where the militants are also believed to be providing safe havens for senior al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden.

Baitullah Mehsud was killed in an Aug. 5, 2009, CIA missile strike in northwestern Pakistan. He was replaced by his military chief, Hakimullah Mehsud.

Earlier this year, U.S. and Pakistani officials believed that Hakimullah Mehsud had been killed in a January missile strike. In April, however, intelligence officials determined that he was alive, and soon afterward he appeared in two new videos released by the Pakistani Taliban.

Wednesday's designations will freeze any assets the group and its leaders may have in U.S. jurisdictions, make it illegal for Americans to provide funding or material support to them and bars them from entering the United States.

Clinton made the determinations on August 12 but did not take effect until their publication in the Federal Register, giving authorities time to determine what, if any, assets the group and its members may have in U.S. jurisdictions.

Lawmakers have been pushing for the sanctions since earlier this year when Pakistani-born American Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty to the attempted May 1 Times Square bombing. Shahzad said he trained with the Pakistani Taliban to build bombs, then returned to the United States to launch an attack that would avenge attacks on Muslims by U.S. forces overseas.

U.S. officials had for some time been reviewing the designations, which require the group to meet specific criteria.

There are now 47 designees on the "foreign terrorist organization" blacklist, including al-Qaida, numerous affiliates, and extremist groups throughout the Middle East, Europe and Latin America.

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Associated Press Writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

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