By Arun Kumar
Washington, Sep 2 (IANS): The United States has designated the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban, linked to the botched Times Square bombing attempt by a Pakistani American, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday also designated two senior TTP leaders Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali Ur Rehman as specially designated global terrorists as the US imposed financial and travel sanctions on the Pakistan based group that trained Times Square suspect Faisal Shahzad.
"These actions will help stem the flow of finances to TTP and provide the Department of Justice with a critical tool to prosecute those who knowingly provide material support to TTP and its senior leaders," State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley said announcing the sanctions.
The US also announced a $5 million reward for any information leading to the arrest of Mehsud or Rehman under its Rewards for Justice Programme, while the Department of Justice issued an arrest warrant for Mehsud charging him "with conspiracy to murder US citizens abroad and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction."
"Hakimullah Mehsud has been the leader of TTP since August 2009 and Wali Ur Rehman is the TTP Emir (leader) in South Waziristan. Rehman has participated in cross-border attacks in Afghanistan against US and NATO personnel, as well as attacks against Pakistani security forces," the State Department said.
Noting the TTP "has carried out numerous attacks against US interests under Mehsud and Rehman's leadership," it said: "Such instances include a December 2009 suicide attack on a US military base in Khost, Afghanistan, which killed seven US citizens, and an April 2010 suicide bombing against the US Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan, which killed six Pakistani citizens."
"The TTP and Al Qaeda have a symbiotic relationship; TTP draws ideological guidance from the Al Qaeda while the Al Qaeda relies on TTP for safe haven in the Pashtun areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border," it said.
"This mutual cooperation gives TTP access to both Al Qaeda's global terrorist network and the operational experience of its members. Given the proximity of the two groups and the nature of their relationship, TTP is a force multiplier for Al Qaeda," the State Department added.
It also said that "the TTP is suspected of being behind the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto," and that "most recently, TTP claimed involvement in the failed attempt by Faisal Shahzad to detonate an explosive device in New York City's Times Square on May 1.
"TTP's claim has been validated by investigations which revealed that TTP directed and facilitated the plot."
Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's Coordinator for Counter-terrorism, said, "Faisal Shahzad's attempted attack on US soil highlights the direct threat posed by the Pakistani Taliban."
"Today's actions put the TTP and its sympathisers on notice that the United States will not tolerate support to this organization, which has inflicted great harm to US and Pakistani interests," he said pointing out that "the TTP's destabilising effect in Pakistan's tribal areas has resulted in innumerable civilian deaths and considerable property losses."
Thus, "It has greatly, indeed unacceptably, complicated the efforts to counter the threat posed by Al Qaeda," Benjamin said.
Asked about concern expressed by India and some other nations that many designated Pakistan based terror groups have come back after changing their names, he said: "We actually are pretty nimble when it comes to adding other names for these groups to the designation so that they are covered as well."