Washington: The United States slapped Pakistani Taliban chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, with terrorism charges for his alleged role in the murder of seven Americans at a CIA base in Afghanistan.
The Justice Department move came as the State Department added the Tehreek-e-Taliban to a blacklist of foreign terrorist organisations, which means members face asset freezes and travel bans.
The State Department also offered rewards of up to USD 5 million each for information leading to Mehsud's location and the location of Wali ur-Rehman, who is reportedly Mehsud's current second-in-command.
"Hakimullah Mehsud, the self-proclaimed emir of the Pakistani Taliban, has been charged by criminal complaint for his alleged involvement in the murder of seven American citizens on December 30, 2009 at a US military base in Afghanistan," the Justice Department said in a statement.
In a two-count complaint filed in US District Court in Washington, Mehsud was charged with conspiracy to murder Americans abroad and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against US citizens abroad.
Daniel Benjamin, the ambassador at large for counter-terrorism, said Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), often made up of fertilizer and diesel fuel, fall into the category of weapons of mass destruction.
Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin who is said to have been a triple agent, blew himself up at the base in Khost, near the Pakistani border in the deadliest attack against the CIA since 1983.
In addition to the agents, Balawi also killed his Jordanian handler -- a top intelligence officer and member of the royal family.
In addition to the Khost bombing, the United States has linked the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) to a botched car bomb plot in New York's Times Square in May and a deadly attack at the US consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan in April.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton designated the TTP as a foreign terrorist organisation on August 12, and it was formally added to the list when it was published on Wednesday in the Federal Register.
Formal designation as a foreign terrorist organisation triggers sanctions including an asset freeze, a ban on members travelling to the United States, and makes it a crime to provide material support to the group.
"Today's actions put the TTP and its sympathisers on notice that the United States will not tolerate support to this organisation, which has inflicted great harm to US and Pakistani interests," Benjamin told reporters.
"TTP's destabilising effect in Pakistan's tribal areas has resulted in innumerable civilian deaths and considerable property losses," he said.
"It has greatly, indeed unacceptably, complicated the efforts to counter the threat posed by al Qaeda," Benjamin said.
Hillary's spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement that the "TTP and al Qaeda have a symbiotic relationship.
"TTP draws ideological guidance from al Qaeda, while al Qaeda relies on TTP for safe haven in the Pashtun areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border," he added.
Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born US national, has pleaded guilty to the failed attack in New York and warned of more strikes on the United States until it leaves Muslim lands.
Shahzad told the judge he had undergone five days of bomb-making training during a 40-day stay with the Pakistani Taliban in Pakistan, between December 09 and January 25.
In April 2010, the State Department said Mehsud's operatives used an explosives-laden truck, machine guns, and rocket launchers in an attack on the US consulate in Peshawar that killed six Pakistanis and wounded 20 others.
Blacklisted along with the TTP are Pakistan's Lashkar-e-Toiba, accused of the deadly raids in Mumbai in 2008, the Palestinian Hamas, Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Irish Republican Army and The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
First Published: Thursday, September 02, 2010, 12:22