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Global terrorist, but a free man in Pakistan: 5 things to know about Hafiz Saeed

A Pakistani court has ordered the release from house arrest of Hafiz Saeed accused of masterminding attacks on Mumbai in 2008 in which 166 people were killed.

world Updated: Nov 23, 2017 13:08 IST
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed‬,‪2008 Mumbai attacks‬,‪Pakistan‬
Hafiz Saeed (centre) reacts to supporters as he walks out of court after an order for his release from house arrest in Lahore, Pakistan.(Reuters)

A Pakistani court has ordered the release of Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people. India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring the attacks through the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which Saeed founded in the 1990s, and the US has designated him a terrorist, offering a $10-million bounty.

Saeed was put under house arrest in January after years of living freely in Pakistan.

Here are five things to know about Saeed and the organisations he is associated with:

1) Saeed was born in Sargodha to a conservative Pakistani Punjabi family. His family reportedly lost 36 of its members when migrating from Shimla to Lahore during the partition of India and Pakistan. General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who ruled Pakistan 1978 to 1988, appointed Saeed to the Council on Islamic Ideology, and he later served as an Islamic Studies teacher at the University of Engineering and Technology (Lahore).

2) According to the United Nations, Saeed “travelled to Afghanistan during the late 1970s or the early 1980s to receive militant training.” There he came into contact with Abdullah Azzam, the mentor of Osama bin Laden and other fighters in Afghanistan, the UN says on its website.

“In 2005, Saeed determined where graduates of a LeT camp in Pakistan should be sent to fight, and personally organized the infiltration of LeT militants into Iraq during a trip to Saudi Arabia. In 2006, Saeed oversaw the management of a terrorist camp, including funding of the camp.”

Read: Will work for Kashmir’s independence, vows Hafiz Saeed after end of house arrest

The US department of the treasury says the LeT “has conducted numerous attacks against Indian military and civilian targets since 1993.”

“The Government of India implicated LeT in the July 2006 attack on multiple Mumbai commuter trains, and in the December 2001 attack against the Indian Parliament. LeT is also suspected of involvement in attacks in New Delhi in October 2005, and in Bangalore in December 2005. In March 2002, senior al Qaida leader Abu Zubaydah was captured at an LeT safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan,” the US department’s website says.

In May 2008, the United States Department of the Treasury designated Saeed as a global terrorist. Saeed was also individually designated by the United Nations following the Mumbai attacks.

3) Pakistan detained Saeed on December 21, 2001 after accusations of his involvement with the December 13, 2001 attack on the Lok Sabha. He was held until March 31, 2002, arrested again on May 15, and was placed under house arrest on October 31 of the same year.

After the July 11, 2006 Mumbai train bombings, the government of Pakistan’s Punjab arrested him on August 9, 2006 and kept him under house arrest but he was released on August 28, 2006 after a Lahore High Court order. He was arrested again on the same day by the provincial government and was kept in the Canal Rest House in Sheikhupura. He was finally released after the Lahore High Court order on October 17, 2006.

Saeed was again placed under after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. He was freed around six months later.

4) According to several accounts, Saeed’s group collects donations from the Pakistani expatriate community in the Persian Gulf and Britain as well as from Islamic NGOs, and Pakistani and Kashmiri businessmen. Experts say it also receives funding from the ISI and Saudi Arabia. The LeT also coordinates its charitable activities through its front organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JUD), which spearheaded humanitarian relief to the victims of the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir.

Pakistan placed the JuD on its “watch list” in 2015 but did not ban it. According to a BBC report, Saeed is associated with another group named Falah-e-Insaniyat, which is on a blacklist released by the US.

5) In January this year, Saeed was caught on tape boasting that four Pakistani mujahideen carried out an attack on an Indian Army facility in Akhnoor, with the LeT founder describing it as a “surgical strike”.

Saeed, who did not say whether the attackers belonged to the LeT, boasted that this was a response to the surgical strikes carried out by Indian special forces in retaliation for a terror attack on an army in Uri last September.

First Published: Nov 23, 2017 12:45 IST