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Pak turns screw on charity linked to Mumbai attacks

Pakistan on Friday tightened the screw on an Islamic charity linked to militants behind the Mumbai massacre, freezing its assets after it was listed by the United Nations as a terror group.

world Updated: Dec 12, 2008 13:48 IST

Pakistan on Friday tightened the screw on an Islamic charity linked to militants behind the Mumbai massacre, freezing its assets after it was listed by the United Nations as a terror group.

Islamabad's move follows intense international pressure to act against militant organisations on its soil in the wake of last month's deadly attacks in India which left 172 people dead, including nine gunmen.

Police began closing the offices of Jamaat-ud-Dawa across Pakistan following orders issued by the central government.

The leader of the charity, Hafiz Saeed, who also founded the Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and eight other Jamaat-ud-Dawa members were ordered to be placed under house arrest.

The assets of the charity and of the nine leaders would be frozen, a senior government official said.

The moves come after India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh labelled Pakistan the "epicentre of terrorism" and Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said there was "irrefutable proof" the attacks were planned in Pakistan.

The strikes on Mumbai have severely strained relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours but India, which has fought three wars with Pakistan since independence from Britain, has ruled out military action.

Meanwhile, international efforts to urge Pakistan to clamp down on militants continued, with US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte the latest senior US figure to travel to Pakistan for security talks.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani emerged from a meeting with Negroponte saying the country would comply with its international obligations to act against Jamaat-ud-Dawa after the UN's decision.

Hours later, police began shuttering the charity's offices.

One of Pakistan's biggest charities, Jamaat-ud-Dawa is known across the country for its earthquake relief work.

But it is also widely viewed as the political wing of LeT, the Kashmiri militant group blamed for the Mumbai attacks and outlawed in Pakistan after India accused it of mounting an attack on its parliament in New Delhi in 2001.

In an interview with the BBC before he was placed under house arrest, Saeed denounced the UN decision and demanded India present evidence of the charity's involvement.

"If they contact us, we'll tell them. We'll go to Pakistan's court. We'll try to hold onto our rights and we'll prove we are not involved in any terrorist activity," he said.

Meanwhile, the sole surviving gunman from the attacks, Mohammed Ajmal Amir Iman, is in custody where he faces charges including "making war against the country" and murder, according to Mumbai police.

Iman, identified by Indian authorities as a Pakistani national, was one of 10 heavily armed Islamist militants who attacked targets across India's business capital.

The UN Security Council earlier this week agreed to list Jamaat-ud-Dawa as one of a number of covers used by LeT, and to categorise it as a terrorist organisation.

The United States already views the charity, which operates out of a sprawling headquarters near the city of Lahore, as a terrorist group.

On Sunday, Pakistani troops raided a camp operated by the charity in Kashmir and arrested 15 people, kicking off a military crackdown on militants in the country.

Pakistan's Gilani has said authorities have arrested two senior LeT members -- Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah, both named in India as suspected planners of the Mumbai attacks.

As India continues to act to prevent further terror assaults, Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram announced wide-reaching reforms Thursday to security laws and national infrastructure.