South Asia News
10-million-dollar bounty on suspected Mumbai mastermind
Apr 3, 2012, 14:58 GMT
New Delhi/Islamabad - Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna on Tuesday welcomed a US bounty of 10 million dollars for information leading to the conviction of the suspected mastermind of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), is thought to have been behind the three-day gun-and-bomb attack in India's financial hub in November 2008, which left 166 locals and foreigners dead, including six US citizens.
The US State Department announced the reward Tuesday in Washington along with a 2-million-dollar reward for information on the group's second in command, Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki.
Krishna said the bounty 'reflects the commitment of India and the US to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack to justice and continuing efforts of both countries to combat terrorism.'
'(The measure) also sends a strong signal to LeT as also its members and patrons that the international community remains united in combating terrorism,' Krishna added.
Saeed lives in Pakistan, where he is also the head of charitable organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). Intelligence agencies claim the charity is a front for the LeT, and the US has blacklisted both organizations.
JuD spokesman Muhammad Yahya Mujahid rejected the US decision.
'America has given this highly objectionable statement because Hafiz Saeed has created furore against the opening of NATO supply lines and drone attacks,' Mujahid said.
'He is not bothered (by the bounty) but the anti-American sentiments in millions of Muslims will surely increase.'
Saeed and other right-wing leaders have held a series of rallies in protest at US drone strike in Pakistan, at the NATO supply lines that cross the country, and at a government decision to normalize trade ties with India.
Islamabad suspended the transit of NATO supplies after a November 26 attack at a border post that killed 24 soldiers, but the parliament is currently debating new guidelines that could allow shipments for Western troops to resume.
US Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, on her first tour of India, told Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai about the measure on Monday, the Indian Foreign Office said.
The notice was posted on Washington's Rewards for Justice website, saying the US would pay up to 10 million dollars for 'information leading to the arrest and conviction of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.'
The website described Saeed as 'a former professor of Arabic and engineering, as well as the founding member of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a radical Deobandi Islamist organization dedicated to installing Islamist rule over parts of India and Pakistan, and its military branch, LeT'.
Saeed now has the same price on his head as Taliban founder Mullah Omar.
Saeed, who is on a list of most-wanted people that India has given to Pakistan, was arrested by Pakistani authorities after the Mumbai attacks but released later because of insufficient evidence.
India has been pressing Islamabad for action against Saeed, but he continues to operate freely in Pakistan, often participating in anti-India and anti-US rallies. Pakistan has repeatedly said it would take action only if New Delhi provides 'substantive' evidence against him.
The Mumbai attacks derailed the peace process between rivals India and Pakistan for nearly three years. The two sides resumed talks early last year.
The sole surviving gunman of the attacks, Ajmal Kasab, has been sentenced to death on several charges. The Supreme Court is currently hearing his appeal.
A diplomatic cable from 2009 released by Wikileaks in 2010 cited US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying that Saeed along with Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, LeT's operations commander, 'continued to run' the group 'despite being detained for their role' in the Mumbai attacks.
Saeed is believed to be a powerful figure in Pakistan, with alleged close links to the army and its Inter-Services Intelligence organization.
Indian officials said they hoped the move would increase overt pressure on Islamabad to move against Saeed. But Pakistani analysts say it is unlikely to do anything more than embarrass Islamabad at a time when ties with Washington have hit an all-time low.
'Islamabad's stance is that there is no evidence (against Saeed),' security analyst Ayesha Siddiqa told broadcaster NDTV. In the absence of fresh evidence, 'I don't think that this announcement is going to make a lot of difference,' she said. 'The status quo will remain.'
'It will be seen as a part of the growing hostile US-Pakistan relations,' she said.
The US encouraged anyone with information to contact a US embassy, consulate or military facility or provide information via the Rewards for Justice website.
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