The United States on Monday announced a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture and arrest of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the Pakistani militant group suspected of carrying out the deadly attacks in Mumbai in 2008, according to the Associated Press.
Saeed founded the Lashkar-e-Taiba in the 1980s to pressure India over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Though it was allegedly formed with Pakistani support, Pakistan banned the group in 2002, under pressure from the US. The Lashkar-e-Taiba continues to operate with relative freedom, though the US has designated it and its social welfare wing, the Jamaat-ud-Dawwa, as foreign terrorist organizations, said the AP.
The reward was announced by US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, while in India, and posted to the US government's Rewards for Justice website, said the AFP. The bounty is the same amount as that offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the Afghan Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar. Only Al Qaeda's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri commands more: $25 million.
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Saeed, who lives openly in Pakistan, is "suspected of masterminding numerous terrorist attacks, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 166 people, including six American citizens," according to the government website. He has been speaking at rallies until recently, condemning Pakistan's cooperation with the US and protesting NATO drone strikes, according to the AFP.
Saeed said, "We are not hiding in caves for bounties to be set on finding us. I think the US is frustrated because we are taking out countrywide protests against the resumption of NATO supplies and drone strikes," as quoted by The Times of India.
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India's External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters, "India welcomes the notification under the Rewards for Justice Program. It reflects the commitment of India and the United States to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack to justice and continuing efforts to combat terrorism. It also sends a strong signal to Lashkar-e-Taiba and also its members and patrons that the international community remains united in combating terrorism," according to Indian newspaper The Hindu.
The move comes at a time when relations between the US and Pakistan are already tense, and a Jamaat-ud-Dawwa spokesperson said the bounty was "another attack by the US government on Muslims and Islam," according to Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune.
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