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US imposes sanctions on four LeT leaders

The United States imposes financial sanctions against four leaders of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), a Pak-based terror group.

world Updated: May 28, 2008 10:38 IST
Arun Kumar

The United States has imposed financial sanctions against four leaders of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based terror group, accused of carrying out 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 the December 2001 attack against the Indian Parliament, US Treasury department said Tuesday while announcing the sanctions.

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 Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah was captured at a LeT safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

The action against the four leaders of the terror group linked to Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network was taken under an executive order, which targets terrorists and those providing financial, technological, or material support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.

It means any assets found in the US belonging to them must be blocked.

Americans are also forbidden from doing business with them.

According to Treasury, the four are Muhammad Saeed, the group's overall leader who plays a key role in LeT's operational and fundraising activities worldwide; Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the group's chief of operations; Haji Muhammad Ashraf, LeT's chief of finance; and Mahmoud Mohammad Ahmed Bahaziq, a main LeT financier.

"LeT is a dangerous Al Qaeda affiliate that has demonstrated its willingness to murder innocent civilians. LeT's transnational nature makes it crucial for governments worldwide to do all they can to stifle LeT's fundraising and operations," said Stuart Levey, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

LeT arose in the early 1990s as the armed wing of the Sunni missionary movement Markaz-ud Dawa-wal-Irshad. Despite being banned by the Pakistan government in January 2002, LeT continues to operate in Kashmir and engage in or support terrorist activities worldwide, the Treasury said.

LeT was designated under a US Executive Order on December 20, 2001, and under UN Security Council Resolution 1267 on May 2, 2005. The US Department of State named LeT a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) on December 26, 2001.

Court testimony in Australia said Lashkar-e-Toiba also helped train Australian David Hicks in guerrilla tactics and other terrorist methods. Hicks was the first person convicted by a military panel at the US Guantanamo Bay prison.

The Treasury announcement said Muhammad Saeed, LeT's overall leader and chief, plays a key role in its operational and fundraising activities worldwide. Saeed oversaw the management of a terrorist training camp in Pakistan in 2006, including funding of the camp, which prepared militants to fight against coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Saeed, in 2005, determined where graduates of an LeT camp in Pakistan should be sent to fight, and personally organised the infiltration of LeT militants into Iraq during a trip to Saudi Arabia. That same year, Saeed arranged for an LeT operative to be sent to Europe as its European fundraising coordinator.

Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, LeT's chief of operations, has directed LeT military operations, including in Chechnya, Bosnia, Iraq, and Southeast Asia. Lakhvi instructed LeT associates in 2006 to train operatives for suicide bombings. Prior to that, Lakhvi instructed LeT operatives to conduct attacks in well-populated areas.

Lakhvi, in 2004, sent operatives and funds to attack US forces in Iraq. Lakhvi also directed an LeT operative to travel to Iraq in 2003 to assess the jihad situation there. In past years, Lakhvi has also played an important role in LeT fundraising activities, reportedly receiving Al Qaeda-affiliated donations on behalf of LeT.

Haji Muhammad Ashraf has held the position of LeT's chief of finance since at least 2003. Ashraf travelled to the Middle East in 2003 and 2004, where he personally collected donations on behalf of LeT. Ashraf assisted Saudi Arabia-based LeT leadership in 2003 with expanding its organisation and increasing its fundraising activities.

Mahmoud Mohammad Ahmed Bahaziq is credited with being the main financier behind the establishment of the LeT and its activities in the 1980s and 1990s. He has also served as the leader of LeT in Saudi Arabia.

In 2003, Bahaziq coordinated LeT's fundraising activities with Saudi nongovernmental organisations and Saudi businessmen, and encouraged LeT operatives to continue and accelerate fundraising and organising activities. As of mid-2005, Bahaziq played a key role in LeT's propaganda and media operations.