U.S. puts group linked to India attack on terror list

U.S. puts group linked to India attack on terror list

REUTERS

The United States placed a Pakistani political group called the Milli Muslim League (MML) on its list of foreign terrorist organizations in early April 2018, saying it was merely an alias for a militant group blamed for a bloody 2008 attack in India. 

The MML is controlled by Islamist leader Hafiz Saeed, who has a U.S. $10 million bounty on his head. The group shot to prominence after fielding a candidate in a September 2017 election to fill a seat vacated by deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. 

Saeed is the founder of Lashkar-e Tayyiba (LeT), which is also on the U.S. terrorist list and blamed by the United States and India for a four-day militant attack on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008 in which 166 people were killed.  Saeed has repeatedly denied involvement in the attack. 

The U.S. State Department said the Milli Muslim League alias had been added to the LeT’s designations as a terrorist group. 

“These designations seek to deny LeT the resources it needs to plan and carry out further terrorist attacks,” the State Department said in a prepared statement. “Make no mistake: Whatever LeT chooses to call itself, it remains a violent terrorist group. The United States supports all efforts to ensure that LeT does not have a political voice until it gives up violence as a tool of influence.”  

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Saeed was placed under house arrest in January 2017 after years of living freely in Pakistan, but a court ordered his release in November 2017.  

India welcomed the U.S. decision, saying Pakistan has failed to crack down on militants. 

“Terrorist individuals and entities are allowed to change names and continue to operate freely from territory under Pakistan’s control,” an Indian foreign office spokesman said in New Delhi. “The designation … highlights Pakistan’s failure to fulfil its international obligation to dismantle terrorist sanctuaries and disrupt terror financing.”

Pakistan previously denied any state involvement in the Mumbai attack or links with LeT and other militant groups. It placed the LeT on a list of banned organizations in 2002. In October 2017, Pakistan’s electoral commission barred the MML from contesting elections, saying it had links to militant groups and could not be registered. 

In March 2018, the Islamabad High Court ordered the election commission to register the party. Under pressure from the United States, the United Nations and international institutions to crack down on terrorist financing, Pakistan drew up secret plans in December 2017 for a takeover of charities linked to Saeed. He has since taken the government decision to court.

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