December 9, 2008 5:28:50 pm
A Lashkar-e-Toiba coordinator has said that the arrest of at least 20 Jamaat-ud-Dawa activists, including the purported mastermind of the Mumbai terror attacks, Zaki-u-Rehman Lakhvi, on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad, will not stop the militant outfit from continuing with its activities.
“We are still well-organized and active,” the ‘Washington Times’ quoted the Lashkar coordinator, as saying during an interaction at a safe house near Lahore.
The Lashkar fighter in Lahore said the group has “huge strength” and is concentrated in Pakistan’s tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.
He ran his fingers through his bushy beard as he sat in a dingy room for the interview, surrounded by boys’ ages 15 to 20 that listened intently as he spoke.
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The man stood uncomfortably against the wall throughout the interview, his eyes avoiding contact with the interviewer.
“The Lashkar definitely has the capability and the capacity to conduct attacks such as those which took place in Mumbai,” said Rasool Baksh Raees, a political science professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.
The Lashkar organizer denied that the group had to purchase recruits. “Young boys come to us usually because their friends have convinced them, because they believe jihad is the epitome of being a good Muslim or because their families are involved,” he said.
Sharmeen Obaid, a filmmaker who has covered jihadists in Pakistan extensively, said that selling boys into jihad is a common practice.
“It’s happening more and more nowadays as people become more desperate for money in Pakistan,” she said.
“After the [2007 Kashmir] earthquake when a large number of children became orphans, I was told that a number of them were sold to organizations such as Lashkar,” she added.
She said the price for one recruit could range from 10,000 to 19,000 dollars. “Sufi shrines and mosques are usual meeting grounds for young boys,” the Lashkar organizer said.
However, Yahya Muhammed, a spokesman for Lashkar-e-Taiba, has denied that the organization has training camps.
“The Jamaat-ud-Dawa was formed in 1986, while the Lashkar-e-Toiba was formed in 1986 and our main aim was to help our Kashmiri brothers,” he said.
India can’t question Lashkar commander, says Pakistan
Pakistan ruled out giving India access to Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi, who is alleged to be behind the Mumbai terror strikes, saying questioning could be done only by Pakistani authorities to ascertain whether he had any link to the attacks.
Pakistan Defence Minister Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar said India’s ‘concerns’ can be discussed through a joint investigation mechanism which Islamabad has proposed to be set up to probe the Mumbai attacks.
“May be we can have a joint investigation mechanism and find out who these culprits are,” Mukhtar told a TV channel.
He said Pakistani officials will question Lakhwi, who was arrested in the crackdown against terrorists, to find out whether there is any linkage to the Mumbai terror attacks.
Lakhwi’s name figured during questioning of Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist caught during the Mumbai attacks, by Indian investigators.
“We do not have to rush into things. We have to move slowly to get hold of the right kind of people who could be involved or are alleged to be involved (in Mumbai attacks). I really do not know who they are. We are trying to find out. We will find out. There is no reason why we would not find out,” he said.
Mukhtar said the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack are ‘scared’ of improvement in relations between India and Pakistan.
“They are scared of these countries becoming trading partners and gaining confidence of each other,” he said.
Mukhtar said the meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, discussed the ‘pros and cons’ of incidents ‘happening around us’ and ways to continue the war against terror and to help Pakistan’s neighbours fight the menace.
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