On the eve of US President Barack Obama's visit to India, the US treasury has slapped sanctions on the financial and support networks of Pakistan-based terror outfits Lashkar-e-Taeba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
The treasury also targeted Azam Cheema, who helped train operatives for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks and was the "mastermind" behind the July 2006 Mumbai train bombings carried out by LeT.
Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, head of LeT's political affairs department, Al Rehmat Trust, an operational front for JeM and Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi, JeM's founder and leader, were also designated for acting for the terrorist outfits.
The action was taken pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which prohibits US persons from engaging in any transactions with these individuals and entity and freezes any assets the designees have under US jurisdiction.
Stuart Levey, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said, "LeT and JeM have proven both their willingness and ability to execute attacks against innocent civilians. He added, "Today's action-including the designation of Azam Cheema, one of LET's leading commanders who was involved in the 2008 and 2006 Mumbai attacks, is an important step in incapacitating the operational and financial networks of these deadly organizations."
The Treasury described Cheema as the key commander in the operations of LeT, which has links to Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network. LeT was designated by the United States pursuant to EO 13224 and as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in December 2001, and also designated by the UN 1267 Committee in May 2005.
Cheema has also been described as Lashkar's surveillance or intelligence chief and has been involved in the outfit's training activities, specifically training LeT members in bomb making and skills needed to infiltrate to India.
The cell that carried out the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai received some of their training from Cheema. He is also reported to have been involved in the July 2006 Mumbai train bombings perpetrated by LeT, Levey noted.
In 2008, Cheema, the former LeT commander for Bahawalpur, Pakistan, was appointed to be an operations advisor to LeT senior leader Zaki-Ur-Rehman Lakhvi. As of 2004, Cheema was identified as being responsible for LeT's external operational planning.
As of late 2008, Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki was reported to be the head of LeT's political affairs department and served as head of the outfit's foreign relations department. Makki has also played a role in raising funds for LeT. In early 2007, he gave approximately $248,000 to terror training camp and approximately $165,000 to an LeT-affiliated madrassa.