United States v. Mehsud (D.D.C. Sep. 1, 2010)

* United States v. Mehsud (D.D.C. Sep. 1, 2010) (criminal charges filed, foreign terrorist organization designation issued)

[Note: an overview of the al-Bihani opinions is on the way for later today]

Now this is interesting. First, federal prosecutors in DC have unsealed a criminal complaint (see attached) against Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (“TTP”, generally referred to publicly as the “Pakistan Taliban”). The charges are: (1) Conspiracy to murder US nationals outside the US (18 USC 2332), and (2) Conspiracy to use WMDs against US nationals outside the US (18 USC 2332a) (recall that the “wmd statute” defines “wmd” very broadly – generally speaking, this covers ordinary explosives, and you should just read this charge as conspiracy to use explosives to kill US nationals outside the US). The charges are premised on the famous December 2009 incident in which a Jordanian suicide bomber killed a number of US persons, apparently including CIA personnel according to various media accounts, at a base in Khost. Details appear below in the press release. No doubt this will add to the unending debate concerning the role of criminal prosecution in relation to circumstances in which the U.S. also is using lethal force.

Second, the State Department today has at last gotten round to designating TTP as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (and also designating certain TTP-related individuals including Mehsud as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists”), thus bringing to bear various sanction regimes – including the applicability of the 1996 material support law (18 USC 2339B) and the law criminalizing the receipt of military-style training from such designated groups (18 USC 2339D). Details appear here

-09/01/10 Foreign Terrorist Organization Designation; Office of the Spokesman; Washington, DC
-09/01/10 Rewards for Justice – Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali Ur Rehman Reward Offers ; Office of the Spokesman; Washington, DC
-09/01/10 Designations of Tehrik-E-Taliban Pakistan and Two Senior Leaders; Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley, Bureau of Public Affairs; Washington, DC

For other recent designations, see:

-08/06/10 Designations of Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI) and its Leader Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri; Office of the Spokesman; Washington, DC
-07/23/10 Pakistan: Haqqani Network Designation; Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley, Bureau of Public Affairs; Washington, DC
-07/20/10 Listing of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP); Office of the Spokesman; Washington, DC

From the press release regarding the complaint against Mehsud:

WASHINGTON – 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 Dec. 30, 2009 at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, the Justice Department announced today.

The two-count criminal complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Aug. 20, 2010 and unsealed today, charges Hakimullah Mehsud, aka Hakimullah Mahsud, with conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens abroad and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against U.S. citizens abroad.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Hakimullah Mehsud, a resident of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) in Pakistan, is the leader of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or what is more commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban. The TTP’s primary purpose is to force withdrawal of Pakistani troops from the FATA of Pakistan, which is located along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border; to unite against NATO forces in Afghanistan and to establish Sharia – or Islamic law – in the tribal territories.

The affidavit alleges that the TTP has had alleged roles in, or claimed responsibility for, a number of acts of violence, including the December 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the September 2009 suicide attack on the Bannu, Pakistan, police station and numerous attacks on NATO supply lines throughout the FATA. These attacks are often coordinated with other insurgents or terrorist groups, including the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Today, the State Department designated the TTP as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and also designated Hakimullah Mehsud and another Taliban leader, Wali Ur Rehman, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. The State Department’s Rewards for Justice program is offering a reward of up to $5 million each for information leading to their location.

Hakimullah Mehsud inherited the role as the leader of the TTP after its former leader and founder, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in August 2009, according to the affidavit. Hakimullah Mehsud remains the commander of TTP, which continues to plan and carry out attacks against the interests of the United States from the FATA. The TTP has recently claimed responsibility for the May 1, 2010 failed bombing of Times Square in New York and also claimed responsibility for the Dec. 30, 2009 suicide bombing in Afghanistan that is charged in the criminal complaint unsealed today.

On Dec. 30, 2009, the affidavit alleges, Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, also known as Abu Dujanah al-Khorasani (al-Balawi), a Jordanian physician, entered a U.S. military base near the town of Khost, Afghanistan, for a pre-planned meeting. Shortly after entering the base, al-Balawi detonated a suicide device concealed beneath his clothing, killing himself and seven U.S. citizens. Six other U.S. citizens were injured.

Soon after the attack, the affidavit alleges, the media arm of the TTP released a video depicting Hakimullah Mehsud and al-Balawi seated together, in which they explain in detail their motivation for launching a suicide attack against the Americans. In the video, Hakimullah Mehsud introduces al-Balawi, states al-Balawi’s reasons for becoming a suicide bomber and describes Americans as the enemy of the mujahideen.

According to the affidavit, Hakimullah Mehsud and al-Balawi both claim responsibility for an upcoming attack in the video, stating together, “And we arranged this attack to let the Americans understand that the belief of Allah, the iman [faith] that we hold, the taqwa [piety] that we strive for cannot be exchanged for all the wealth in the world.” In the video, Hakimullah Mehsud then explains that the motive for the attack against the Americans is revenge for the death of the former emir of the TTP, Baitullah Mehsud. Today, Hakimullah Mehsud is a fugitive believed to be residing in the FATA.

Final Mehsud Complaint and Affidavit.pdf

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