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U.S. charges Pakistan Taliban leader in CIA deaths

The Justice Department has charged Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mahsud with two counts of conspiracy for his alleged role in planning a December 2009 suicide attack in Afghanistan that killed seven CIA employees.

Mahsud is the leader of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, a group the U.S. affidavit also alleges was behind the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and numerous attacks on NATO supply lines into Afghanistan.

The State Department says the group also was responsible for an April attack against the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the December 2009 attack and also said it was behind the failed May 1 bombing attempt in Times Square in New York by a Pakistani-born American who said the group had trained him to build bombs.

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“These charges are part of a multipronged U.S. government effort to disrupt and dismantle Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan,” said Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd. “It is our intention to hold Mahsud accountable for his actions, and we will work with our partners in the intelligence community, the military and law enforcement, as well as our counterparts overseas to achieve that objective.”

The charges against Mahsud grew in part from a video released after the December attack, in which a Jordanian physician set off a suicide bomb at a remote base in the eastern Afghan province of Khowst near the border with Pakistan. According to the affidavit, the Jordanian drove to the base and got out of his car carrying a cane and wearing traditional Afghan clothing. He reached under his clothes to detonate an explosive, killing the seven CIA employees and himself, and wounding six other people.

At one point in the video, Mahsud and the doctor, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal Balawi, say in unison: “And we arranged this attack to let the Americans understand that the belief of God, the [faith] that we hold, the [piety] that we strive for cannot be exchanged for all the wealth in the world.”

Later in the video, Mahsud describes the attack as revenge for the death of Baitullah Mahsud, the former head of the Pakistani Taliban. Baitullah Mahsud, unrelated to Hakimullah Mahsud, is believed to have been killed by the CIA in a drone attack in August 2009.

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kgeiger@latimes.com


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