Thursday, March 26, 2009

US announces $5m reward for info about Haqqani, Mehsud

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday offered $5 million bounty each for Sirajuddin Haqqani, believed to have been involved in the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul at the instance of Pakistan's ISI, and Baitullah Mehsud, a suspect in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

The remuneration, under the state department’s Rewards for Justice scheme, is for ''information leading to the location, arrest, and/or conviction,'' of Haqqani and Mehsud, officials said. A separate $1 million reward was also announced for Abu Yahya al-Libi, described as a prominent member of al-Qaida.

The reward for Haqqani particularly will interest New Delhi since Washington believes the Haqqani network executed the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul at the instance of ISI.

US electronic intercepts is said to have yielded ''ISI fingerprints'' on the operation in the form of communication about the attack, which some experts believe was conducted by Pakistan to warn India about its growing influence in Afghanistan.

The US reward incidentally covers only Siraj Haqqani while leaving out his father Jalaluddin Haqqani, who was once seen as an American ally during the Afghan War when Washington used the mujaheddin to oust the then Soviet Union. Haqqani sr. is also believed to be ailing and close to death.

Terrorism analyst Bill Roggio told ToI that the reward for the junior Haqqani alone was probably made at the behest of ISI, which believes it can cause a rift between the father and son.

Pakistan has routinely tried the strategy of playing off one faction of extremists against another to achieve its tactical goals. In Swat, Islamabad has signed a peace deal with what it regards as a moderate Talibanist, Sufi Mohammed, in an effort to rein in his more extremist son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah.

Subsequent to the Kabul attack, Pakistan’s army chief Pervez Ashraf Kiyani, a former ISI Director General, had described Haqqani as a strategic asset. It was not clear whether he was referring to the father or son or both.

In another example of the wages of Pakistan’s divide-and-rule tactics, a suicide bomber sent by Baitullah Mehsud on Thursday blew himself up in a restaurant near the town of Tank in an effort to kill a pro-government militant named Turkistan Bitani, resulting in the death of 11 Bitani men. Bitani himself escaped the attack.

The Mehsud and Bitani clans have been at loggerheads in Pakistan’s restive frontier province. Mehsud had killed Bitani’s brother, who was strangely named Hindustan, in an attack last year to avenge the death of 35 of his men. Such internecine fighting is in any case common in the Frontier region.

The rewards for justice program has unclaimed booty of $ 25 million each for Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri, both accused in the 9/11 attacks and on the lam in nearly a decade since.

However, the program has paid more than $77 million to over 50 people who provided information that ''prevented international terrorist attacks or helped bring to justice those involved in prior acts.''

Those reported under the program include Saddam Hussein’s sons Uday and Qusai, first World Trade Center attack accused Ramzi Yousef, and Mir Aimal Kansi, who was charged with the brazen assassination of CIA analysts right outside the agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Source: TOI

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