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US targets Lashkar top guns

delhi Updated: May 29, 2008 02:10 IST
Amit Baruah
Amit Baruah
Hindustan Times
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Turning the screws on the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) leadership, the US on Tuesday froze the assets of its Lahore-based chief, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, operational head Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, and financiers Haji Muhammad Ashraf and Mahmoud Mohammed Ahmed Bahaz.

“Any assets these designees have under US jurisdiction will be frozen and US persons are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the designees,” the US treasury department said about the four individuals.

In December 2001, the US designated the Lashkar a foreign terrorist organisation, which has also been named in a UN Security Council resolution of May 2005.

“LeT is a dangerous Al Qaeda affiliate that has demonstrated its willingness to murder innocent civilians,” said Stuart Levy, Under Secretary for Terrorism, in a statement posted on the US treasury’s web site. It pointed out that the Lashkar had attacked Indian civilian and military targets since 1993 and was implicated in the July 2006 Mumbai train bombings and the December 2001 Parliament attack.

“In March 2002, senior Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah was captured at an LeT safehouse in Faisalabad, Pakistan… despite being banned… by Pakistan in January 2002, LeT continues to operate in Kashmir and engage in or support terrorist activities worldwide,” the statement said.

The LeT leadership has been targeted at a time when the civilian Yusuf Raza Gilani government is in negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban, a development the US is none too happy about.

Saeed, who roams freely in Pakistan, and has his Friday “sermons” posted on the group’s website, is known to have had the support of Pakistan’s permanent establishment. It remains to be seen whether the US now puts pressure on Islamabad to take action against him and the others.

The US statement claimed that Hafiz Saeed, in 2005, determined where “graduates” of an LeT camp in Pakistan should be sent to fight and “personally supervised” the infiltration of LeT militants into Iraq during a trip to Saudi Arabia.

Describing Seed as the overall leader, the release said he played a key role in the group’s operational and fund-raising activities worldwide.