Bounty for Pakistani Taliban leader

Islamabad offers $615,000 reward for capture of Baitullah Mehsud among other fighters.

    Mehsud already has a $5m bounty on his head that was promised by the US state department [EPA]

    Pakistani air force jets have been attacking Taliban hideouts for several weeks as the government prepares to launch a ground operation to root out Mehsud and his men.

    Fayyaz Tooro, home secretary of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), said the reward announcements marked the first time the Pakistan government had put a price for Mehsud's capture.

    "This list has been issued by the interior ministry and has been published for the first time in close co-operation with security agencies, which provided invaluable information to the government," Tooro said.

    Hostile territory

    Mehsud, who allegedly has ties to al-Qaeda, already has a $5m bounty on his head that was promised by the US state department, which considers him "a key al-Qaeda facilitator in the tribal areas of South Waziristan".

    Pakistan blames Mehsud for a wave of deadly attacks that have killed hundreds of people in the past two years and has vowed to remove him from his fiefdom.

    In depth

     Money worries stir discontent
    Taliban conducts revenge attacks

     Conflict reaches Islamabad
     Police battle Pakistani Taliban

    Refuge for Swat's Sikhs
     Lahore bombing

     Diary: Imran Khan
     Riz Khan: Obama's 'AfPak' strategy
     Riz Khan: The battle for the soul of Pakistan
     Interview: Asif Ali Zardari
     Q&A: The struggle for Swat
     Your views: Crisis in Swat

    The fight for northwest Pakistan
    Talking to the Taliban
    Pakistan's war
     Witness: Pakistan in crisis
     Profile: Baitullah Mehsud

    Pakistan's military is likely to try to stir up rivalries among the Taliban in order to gain allies before any operation into the hostile territory Afghanistan's border, analysts and security sources say.

    But Qari Zainuddin, a rising tribal leader who defected from Mehsud's Taliban group, was assassinated recently in an attack claimed by Mehsud's tribe, dashing hopes of internal divisions.

    Pakistan's northwestern region has become a stronghold for both al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters who fled Afghanistan following the US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban government in 2001.

    Mehsud organised tribal fighters together and formed his Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan group in 2007.

    Since then, he has extended his reach into North Waziristan and Bajaur among other federally administered tribal areas.

    A $615,000 reward for Maulana Fazlullah, the Taliban chief of Swat valley in the NWFP, has already been offered by Pakistan.

    Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan's prime minister, said on Sunday that the military operation in Swat had been almost completed.

    "The entire nation wants terrorism to be eliminated and law and order restored," he said.

    "There is no room for any negotiations with the militants. This is the time for a decisive action against them."


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