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Islamic Militancy

Suspected mastermind of Mumbai attacks caught up in Pakistan crackdown

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 2:11pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 11:07pm

Pakistan has placed the chief suspect behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks under house arrest as it cracks down on the group linked to the carnage.

Firebrand cleric Hafiz Saeed, who heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) group and has a US$10 million bounty on his head, is to be placed under “preventative detention”, according to the Interior Ministry order.

Police took Saeed away from a mosque in Lahore late on Monday and escorted him to his residence where they appear to be holding him under house arrest.

“My detention orders are unlawful and we will challenge them in the court,” Saeed told reporters before he was led away by police.

“These orders have come from Washington,” he said.

“Now more rallies and protests will be held on Kashmir issue,” Saeed said, adding: “our movement will continue till Kashmir’s independence.”

Pakistan and India both control part of Kashmir but claim the whole of the territory and have fought two of their three wars over it since independence from Britain in 1947.

India blames Pakistan for sending militant groups to foment unrest in the part of Kashmir controlled by New Delhi.

JuD, listed as a terror outfit by the United Nations, is considered by the US and India to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the militant group blamed for the attack on India’s financial capital.

The horror of the Mumbai carnage played out on live television around the world as commandos battled the heavily armed gunmen, who arrived by sea on the evening of November 26, 2008.

It took the authorities three days to regain full control of the city and New Delhi has long said there is evidence that “official agencies” in Pakistan were involved in plotting the attack.

Islamabad denies the charge.

But for years JuD operated freely across the country, popular for its charity works especially in the wake of natural disasters, and testing Islamabad’s vow to tackle militancy.

Despite the bounty against him Saeed led a high-profile public life, regularly delivering fiery anti-India speeches.

The detention order surfaced hours after Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar hinted that a crackdown was imminent.

He told reporters in Islamabad earlier Monday that, given the group had been under observation for years and was blacklisted internationally, Pakistan is “under obligation to take some action”.

“The situation will be clear on this by tomorrow,” he said, without giving further details.

The order from the interior ministry placed JuD and a foundation tied to it on a watch list, and also ordered the “preventative detention” of four other members in various cities in Punjab.

India has long seethed at Pakistan’s failure either to hand over or prosecute those accused of planning and organising the Mumbai attacks, while Pakistan has alleged that India failed to give it crucial evidence.

Islamabad’s decision in 2015 to release an alleged mastermind of the attacks, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, was slammed as an “insult” by New Delhi.

Pakistan has long been accused of playing a “double game” with militants by supporting groups it thinks it can use for its own strategic ends, particularly in disputed Kashmir.