Islamabad: Pakistan on Monday offered rewards worth USD 5 million for information leading to the capture, dead or alive, of the country`s Taliban warlord Hakimullah Mehsud and 18 lieutenants.
The rewards for top-ranking Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants were offered in a black-and-white government advertisement on the front page of The News daily and flashed on Pakistani television channels overnight.
Mehsud, who took on the leadership mantle after a US drone attack killed his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud in August, headed the list with 50 million Pakistan rupees (USD 600,240) slapped on his head.
TTP has been blamed for some of the worst attacks in Pakistan, which have killed around 2,400 people in a deadly wave of carnage over the past two years.
The hardcore faction has also claimed responsibility for many strikes in a recent surge in bloodshed, in which more than 300 people died last month, as the military launched a ground offensive against the TTP in South Waziristan.
"Anyone who captures these people dead or alive or provides concrete information, the government will award them a cash reward," the advert said.
"The activities of these brutal people, who have no fear of God, are bringing a bad name -- not only to the Mehsud tribe but all tribesmen... and also give a bad name to Pakistan in the whole world," it said.
"These people certainly need just punishment. They are the killers of humanity. Help the government of Pakistan to annihilate them."
Wali-ur Rehman Mehsud, head of the Baitullah Mehsud faction in South Waziristan and considered a contender for the TTP succession, and Qari Hussain Mehsud, commander for his hometown, Kotkai, were also the subjects of 50-million-rupee awards.
Eleven other commanders had rewards of 20 million rupees and the government posted rewards of 10 million rupees each for five lesser-ranking militants.
Informants should contact the local administration or law enforcement agencies, said the advertisement, pledging full anonymity.
The rewards were offered less than a week after at least 118 people were killed last Wednesday when a massive car bomb flattened a market street in the northwest city of Peshawar in one of Pakistan`s deadliest ever attacks.
Pakistan ground troops, backed by jet fighters and helicopter gunships, are pressing a major offensive against TTP strongholds into a third week in which they have massed outside Taliban bastions and fought in streets.
The United States has endorsed the offensive in the lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border, where US officials say al Qaeda and its allies are plotting terror attacks on the West.
In Pakistan last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hit out against the government`s silence on the whereabouts of al Qaeda leaders, saying it was "hard to believe" no one knew their location.