US designates members of Pakistan armed groups as ‘terrorists’

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Pakistan security officials and relatives attend a funeral for a policeman killed in an attack claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the border town of Chaman [File: Abdul Basit/AFP]

The designation includes leaders of the South Asia-based al-Qaeda offshoot and the so-called Pakistani Taliban.

Islamabad, Pakistan – The United States has declared three members of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and one senior official of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as “terrorists”.

A statement on Thursday named the “emir” of AQIS Osama Mehmood, deputy emir Atif Yahya Ghouri, and Muhammad Maruf, who looks after recruitment for the armed group, on its “Specially Designated Global Terrorists” list.

Qari Amjad, the deputy chief of the TTP, also commonly called the Pakistani Taliban, was also named. Amjad oversees operations in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to the statement, “all property and interests of those designated … that are subject to US jurisdiction are blocked, and all US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them”.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US is “committed to using its full set of counterterrorism tools” to eliminate the threat posed by armed groups operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The decision, Blinken said, shows “our relentless efforts to ensure that terrorists do not use Afghanistan as a platform for international terrorism”.

“We will continue to use all relevant tools to uphold our commitment to see to it that international terrorists are not able to operate with impunity in Afghanistan,” he added.

The US decision was announced after the Pakistani Taliban’s declaration earlier this week that it was formally ending a six-month ceasefire with the government of Pakistan.

The group claimed responsibility for recently attacking a police vehicle in Quetta, the provincial capital of Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan, which resulted in the deaths of four people.

In response to the American listing, the TTP on Friday expressed regret at the decision and said the group has no “foreign agenda”.

“The TTP has made it clear to America and other foreign powers that we are fighting to achieve our religious and nationalist objectives. We don’t have a foreign agenda,” a TTP statement said.

The American announcement was followed by a press readout from the US Central Command, which revealed its commander, General Michael Kurilla, had a teleconference with Pakistan’s new army chief General Asim Munir.

It said the two “discussed US-Pakistan security cooperation efforts and strengthening the bilateral relationship”.

 

On Wednesday, Pakistan’s interior minister Rana Sanaullah said the government did not reach any settlement with the TTP and promised to strongly respond to an increasing wave of violence.

Sanaullah said the decision to enter into peace negotiations with the TTP only took place under the condition the armed group laid down its weapons.

However, the minister said some TPP factions wanted to continue fighting the state of Pakistan. He also said the burgeoning violence should be a matter of concern for the Afghan Taliban, which has facilitated the negotiations between the Pakistani government and the TTP.

The Afghan Taliban took over the country in August last year after US troops pulled out.

Pakistan has on multiple occasions asked the Afghan Taliban government to ensure its soil is not used by the TTP for conducting attacks across their borders.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

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