Pakistan moves on Mumbai accused

Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, undated file pic

Pakistan has put the founder of an Islamic militant group accused of having links to last month’s Mumbai attacks under house arrest.

Cleric Hafiz Mohammad Saeed set up the group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India says planned and carried out the attacks.

Pakistan is also closing offices of Mr Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity, after it was put on a UN blacklist.

Pakistan has denied any involvement in the multiple attacks, which killed 173 people in India’s financial capital.

Pakistan’s Interior Ministry told the BBC that Jamaat-ud-Dawa buildings would be shut across the country immediately.

Hours before he was placed under house arrest, Mr Saeed told the BBC he had severed links with Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Pakistan has been under intense pressure to act since the 26 November attacks on its neighbour, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said Pakistan needs to do “much more” to combat terrorism.

UN pressure

In his interview with the BBC, Mr Saeed vigorously denied claims that he had connections with the Mumbai attackers.

Indian troops outside the Taj Mahal Hotel. Mumbai, India, 26 November 2008

“We don’t have any office [that] develops terrorists, do terrorist activities. I preach religion,” he said.

Mr Saeed’s spokesman, Abdullah Montazir, said police had encircled his client’s Lahore home, informing him he that he could not leave and that detention orders would be formally served “shortly”.

Lahore police chief Pervez Rathor said Mr Saeed and four other officials of the charity would be held under house arrest for three months. He did not say whether the men would be charged.

Meanwhile, India announced a major overhaul of its security and intelligence services.

Newly-appointed Interior Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said the measures would include:

  • Reinforcing coastal security
  • Creating a new national investigative agency
  • Improving police training and strengthening anti-terror laws

Mr Chidambaram also reiterated the Indian government’s view that “the finger of suspicion unmistakeably points to the territory of our neighbour Pakistan” as the source of the attacks.

‘Terrorist group’

Earlier, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani promised Pakistan would comply with a UN Security Council demand to list Jamaat-ud-Dawa as a terrorist group.

Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasab

Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasab remains in police custody

Speaking after meeting top US official John Negroponte in Islamabad, Mr Gilani said Pakistan would take note of the decision and fulfil what he described as its international obligations.

Thursday’s crackdown on Jamaat-ud-Dawa is the first time the organisation has been placed on the list of proscribed or banned organisations in Pakistan, says the BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan in Pakistan.

Once a group has been placed on the list, action can be taken against it under the country’s anti-terrorism law.

Under that law, all assets of the organisation can be seized and its offices and other places of business shut down, our correspondent says.

Mr Saeed officially quit the leadership of Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2001 to become head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

Also on Thursday, an Indian magistrate extended policy custody of the lone surviving suspected gunman from the Mumbai attacks, Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasab, until 24 December.

Nine of the 10 gunmen died during the attacks on seven prominent Mumbai targets, including luxury hotels and a Jewish centre.

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