U.S. Puts $10 Million Bounty On Lashkar-e Taiba Founder
April 03, 2012
The United States has announced a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a founding member of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e Taiba.
The U.S. State Department's Rewards for Justice website describes Hafiz Mohammad Saeed as a “former professor of Arabic and engineering.”
It also says Saeed is a founding member of both Jamaat-ud-Dawa, “a radical Deobandi Islamist organization dedicated to installing Islamist rule over parts of India and Pakistan, and its military branch,” Lashkar-e Taiba.
The statement says he is suspected of masterminding “numerous terrorist attacks,” including the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, that left some 165 people and nine of the attackers dead.
One Of Washington's Most Wanted
The reward for Saeed is one of the highest offered by the U.S. government and is equal to the amount for Taliban chief Mullah Omar. Only the reward for Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden as Al-Qaeda leader, is higher, at $25 million.
The United States also has offered up to $2 million for Saeed's brother-in-law and Lashkar-e Taiba deputy leader, Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki.
Lashkar-e Taiba was allegedly founded in the 1980s with the help of Pakistan's intelligence agency, with the aim of pressuring India over the disputed Kashmir territory.
Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which is one of Pakistan's biggest charities, denies terror accusations.
The United States has designated both groups as terrorist organizations.
The United Nations has also included Jamaat-ud-Dawa and several of its leaders on the list of entities and organizations known to support Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Pakistan banned Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2002 under U.S. pressure.
Frequent Public Appearances
Saeed, however, has continued to operate in Pakistan, making frequent public appearances.
The AFP news agency reported that he addressed thousands of people at a rally in the capital, Islamabad, on March 27.
India has blamed the Mumbai attacks on Lashkar-e Taiba, and Saeed figures prominently on a list of "most wanted" given to Pakistan by India.
Interpol has also issued an arrest notice against him for his role in the attacks.
Pakistan put Saeed under house arrest after the Mumbai attacks, but he was later freed on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to detain him.
The sole surviving gunman in the attacks, Pakistani national Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, was captured and sentenced to death by an Indian court. His appeal is pending.
'Sending A Strong Signal'
India has welcomed the announcement of the U.S. reward, with the Ministry of External Affairs saying it reflects the commitment of India and the United States to bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice.
The statement added that the move “also sends a strong signal" to Lashkar-e Taiba, its members and patrons, that the international community remains united in combating terrorism.
News of the bounty comes as Washington and Islamabad seek to repair their relationship, which has been hit by a series of crises over the past year.
Pakistan's parliament is currently debating a revised framework for relations with Washington following U.S. airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November along the Afghan border.
Pakistan closed its Afghan border to NATO supplies in the wake of the incident.
With reporting by AP and AFP
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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