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January 22, 2011

US tag shows Qari Hussain alive


January 22, 2011

LAHORE: The US State Department’s decision to place on its terrorism blacklist Qari Hussain Mehsud, a key commander of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has created serious doubts about a previous claim by the intelligence sleuths that he had died in the October 7, 2010 drone strike in the Mirali town of North Waziristan, hence giving credence to possibility that the master trainer of suicide bombers may be alive.
The State Department has placed Qari Hussain on the terrorism blacklist because he is believed to have trained a Jordanian militant Humam Muhammad Abu Mulal al-Balawi, who had killed seven officials of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Khost area of Afghanistan on December 30, 2009 by exploding himself at a secret CIA base which supervised the drone programme.
The State Department’s statement has used ‘present tense’ while framing charges against Qari Hussain, thus giving clear hint that he may still be alive. The statement reads: “This action will help stem the flow of finances to Qari Hussain by blocking all property subject to US jurisdiction in which Hussain had an interest and prohibiting all transactions by US persons with Hussain”, the State Department said in a statement on January 20, 2011, adding that the group helmed by Hussain, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is notorious for recruiting and training men of all ages as suicide bombers”.
Qari Hussain Mehsud is the first cousin of the TTP chief Commander Hakimullah Mehsud who is also known in the militant circles as Ustad-e-Fidayeen. The initial claim about his death actually came from the US intelligence agencies, which maintained that he was killed in a drone attack on a house in the Mirali are of North Waziristan on October 7, 2010. They further claimed that eight foreigners, including some Germans, were also killed in the same strike. The Pakistani authorities subsequently endorsed the American claim a couple of days later, stating that Hussain was severely injured in

the attack and taken to Miramshah where doctors amputated one of his legs and he died there.
However, the TTP spokesman Azam Tariq had instantly refuted reports about Hussain’s death, saying they were in fact part of a campaign to demoralise Taliban fighters. “Qari Hussain is alive and healthy and will soon contact the media. The infidels and their agents are spreading disinformation to demoralise Taliban”, Azam had stated. But almost three and a half-month after the American claim that Qari Hussain had died, none other than the US State Department had placed his name on terrorism blacklist, indicating that their claims about his death were faulty.
Qari Hussain became prime target of the drones after the release of his audio in May 2010, wherein he had praised Faisal Shehzad, a US national of the Pakistani origin, for car bombing attempt at the Time Square in New York.
It was during Operation Zalzala in January 2008 that Hussain was first reported dead when the Pakistani military destroyed his house in Waziristan and announced that he had been killed. But he had reappeared a couple of months later. In June 2009, a suspected drone attack targeting a compound near Makeen, South Waziristan, reportedly killed Hussain.
But he reappeared again along with Commander Hakimullah Mehsud and Commander Waliur Rehman in October 2009, causing embarrassment for both the American as well as Pakistani authorities. In the aftermath of the death of seven CIA officers in an incident of suicide bombing carried out by a Jordanian in Khost, the US drone strikes intensified significantly in the Pakistani tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.
Two such drone attacks, one on January 14, 2010, that struck a compound in the Shaktoi region on North Waziristan-South Waziristan border and another on January 17, 2010 that destroyed two vehicles traveling in the same area, killed several militants.
It was subsequently claimed by the Americans that Hakimullah Mehsud and Hussain Mehsud had been killed in those attacks. However, Hussain disproved these reports earlier than Hakimullah by claiming responsibility for twin suicide bombings on February 11, 2010, which killed 16 people and injured at least 22, in the Bannu district of Khyber Pakhtoonkhawa.
Subsequently, Hakimullah too reappeared in a video to prove that he too had survived the same series of US drones.
Pakistani security circles believe most of the suicide bombings carried out by the TTP after launching of Operation Rah-e-Haq by the Pakistan Army in Swat had been masterminded by none other than Qari Hussain - be it the March 2009 fidayeen assault on the Manawan Police Academy in Lahore, the June 2009 Peshawar Pearl Continental hotel blast, the May 2009 twin suicide attacks on the Lahore headquarters of ISI and the Rescue 15 offices, the June 2009 assassination of the anti-Taliban religious scholar Mufti Sarfraz Naeemi in Lahore, the July 2010 suicide attack at the shrine of the revered sufi saint Hazrat Data Ganj Bux in Lahore and the July 2010 suicide bombing targeting the shrine of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi.

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