US adds Pakistani Taliban militant group to terror list

State Department says it has added a key anti-Pakistan militant group and its Al Qaeda branch to its list of global terrorists

Pakistani troops at the site after a suicide bomber blew up a police lorry, on November 30, in an attack claimed by the Pakistani Taliban. AFP
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The US has added the Pakistani Taliban group and its Al Qaeda branch to its list of “global terrorists,” bringing sanctions against the militants.

It comes amid a resurgence of militant violence in Pakistan.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its Al Qaeda affiliate operate from Afghanistan, but they have hideouts in Pakistan’s former tribal regions in the north-west and elsewhere.

Thursday’s move by the State Department comes days after the TTP ended a months-long ceasefire with the government of Pakistan and resumed attacks across the country.

The threat posed by the TTP forced Pakistani authorities to take additional measures, and security was tight on orders from the Interior Ministry outside worship and other public places on Friday, amid fears of more attacks.

The TTP has asked its fighters to attack security forces across the country. The Pakistani Taliban were behind the 2014 attack on a Peshawar school that killed 147 people, mostly schoolchildren.

The State Department said on Thursday it had designated TTP and Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.”

The agency’s statement said the US was “committed to using its full set of counterterrorism tools to counter the threat posed by terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, including Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent [AQIS] and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan [TTP]” to keep militants from using Afghanistan as “a platform for international terrorism.”

“As a result of these actions,” the statement said, “all property and interests in property of those designated [Thursday] that are subject to us jurisdiction are blocked, and all us persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them.”

The US also named four members of the TTP and Al Qaeda in the Indian Sub-continent Osama Mehmood, the head of the Al Qaeda branch, Yahya Ghouri, the deputy chief of Al Qaeda’s branch, and Muhammad Maruf, who is responsible for recruitment for the group.

It also designated TTP’s leader, Qari Amjad, who oversees militant attacks in north-west Pakistan.

The latest measures by the State Department come days after Pakistan’s new army chief, Gen Asim Munir, took command of the military amid a surge in militant attacks on security forces and police in the country. He replaced Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, who retired on November 29 after completing his six-year extended term as the army chief.

One of the key challenges faced by Gen Munir is how to respond to the threat from TTP.

In a statement, Col Joe Buccino, spokesman for US Central Command, said Centcom chief Gen Erik Kurilla spoke via video teleconference with Gen Munir to congratulate him on his new position. He said the two leaders discussed US-Pakistan security co-operation efforts and strengthening the bilateral relationship.

Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden was killed in a US Navy SEALs operation in May 2011 in his hiding place in the garrison city of Abbottabad, not far from the capital of Islamabad, and TTP emerged after Pakistan became a key ally of the US in its war on terror after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

There was no immediate comment from Pakistan, but the latest development comes after Islamabad asked the Taliban in Afghanistan to prevent the TTP from using their soil for attacks inside the country. The demand from Pakistan came after a suicide bomber dispatched by the TTP blew himself up near a lorry carrying police assigned to protect polio workers in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Balochistan province.

TTP has claimed responsibility for the attack, which has drawn nationwide condemnation.

The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but allied with Afghanistan’s Taliban, who have ruled their country since the US and Nato troops withdrew last year. The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan emboldened their Pakistani allies, whose top leaders and fighters are hiding in the next door country.

Updated: December 07, 2022, 9:42 PM