U.S. Expresses Concern at Mumbai Terror Attack Accused Hafiz Saeed’s Release in Pakistan
The Pakistani government should make sure that he is arrested and charged for his crimes, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.
The United States called on Pakistan to arrest militant Hafiz Saeed, believed to be the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, following his release earlier this week. U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration has been putting pressure on Pakistan to take stronger action against terrorism growing on its homeland.
“The United States is deeply concerned that LeT leader Hafiz Saeed has been released from house arrest in Pakistan. The LeT is a designated foreign terrorist organization responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens. The Pakistani government should make sure that he is arrested and charged for his crimes,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.
“Nine years after 26/11, its mastermind still eludes justice. It is time to rescind Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally,” top counter-terrorism expert Bruce Riedel told PTI.
“In a word, the release is an outrage,” Alyssa Ayres, a former State Department official and currently with the Council on Foreign Relations, told the news agency.
India has also condemned and expressed “outrage” at Saeed’s release. “India, as indeed the entire international community, is outraged that a self-confessed and UN proscribed terrorist is being allowed to walk free and continue with his evil agenda,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
Saeed was under house arrest since January 2017 but this week Pakistan court found that there was not enough evidence to continue his arrest. Saeed is the founder of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and has a $10 million bounty on him declared by the U.S. Justice Department. He has also been declared as a militant by the United Nations but enjoys freedom in Pakistan.
Saeed is expected to join mainstream politics through the political party Milli Muslim League. The party was started by Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a front of the LeT.
“Once he gets out and restarts all his activities and starts his work again, then we will announce what his plans for the political party are,” Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s information secretary Nadeem Awan said on Nov. 22.
Saeed is lauded by some in his home country for being a spokesperson against Indian “violence” in Kashmir. After his release, he said, “I fight the case of Kashmiris. I will gather the people from across the country for the cause of Kashmir. And we will try to help Kashmiris get their destination of freedom.”
U.S. lawmakers recently pushed for declaring LeT and the Haqqani Network in the same category of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA). A significant amount of aid given to Pakistan from the United States depends on the Secretary of State certifying that it is doing enough to stop the Haqqani network.
“We can’t buy Pakistan’s loyalty,” Representative Ted Poe said. “They play everyone, whether it’s China or the terrorists or us.”