Pak-based terror groups opening of its gates was carefully orchestratedDecember 5th, 2008 - 5:55 pm ICT by ANI
Muridke (Pakistan), Dec.5 (ANI): A Pakistani terrorist group blamed for last weeks attack on Mumbai that killed nearly 200 people and injured nearly 300, opened its gates to outsiders and reporters on Thursday, but according to some reports, the visit by foreign and local journalists was carefully orchestrated, possibly by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) itself.
Visitors were shown a beautifully equipped school and a hospital, but were denied access to the madrassa, the mosque and other facilities within the 200-acre barbed wire compound.
After a press conference, the visiting media was provided with a sumptuous lunch. Once the official tour was declared over, the media found that they were no longer welcome though they were politely told they were welcome any time.
According to The Guardian, when an attempt was made to take up the offer of Abdullah Muntazir, a spokesman of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the political wing of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, it was met with a heavy-handed response. Burly young men arrived on motorcycles and demanded that the journalists leave immediately.
According the paper, the invite into the Jamaat-ud-Dawa compound may have been at the behest of the Pakistani authorities. The tour was conducted under the watchful eyes of members of the Special Branch, often a euphemism for the ISI.
Earlier, The Telegraph reported that Muntazir had encouraged the visit to ”clear up some misconceptions” about the groups headquarters and its activities, including the Indian Governments charge that it had masterminded the terrorist attack in Mumbai.
“You can go anywhere you like and see we have nothing to hide,” Muntazir said, adding that the organisation was mulling what to do if the government closes down his group under American pressure. The 200-acre barbed-wired compound is located off the main road 30 miles north of Lahore, near brick kilns, fields and a shabby village market.
It has been the headquarters of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which is said to be the political wing of the banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
On Wednesday, guards at the gate had brandished Kalashnikovs, but yesterday no weapons were on view.
Indian officials have claimed that the sole surviving terrorist involved in the Mumbai attacks has confessed he was trained by Lashkar-e-Taiba and spent time at the Muridke camp.
Jamaat and military officials have voiced concern that if the sabre-rattling between India and Pakistan gets out of hand the Indian air force may target Muridke.
He said the head of Jamaat, Hafiz Saeed, one of 20 suspects wanted by India, was in Lahore yesterday.
Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, left the group shortly before it was banned in 2002 under American pressure and set up Jamaat as an Islamic charity, which is regarded as its political wing, and converted Muridke to an educational institution.
The Muridke compound was where one of the London bombers spent time and the compound is believed to have been used as a hideout by al-Qaeda operatives, including Ramzi Yousef, one of the planners of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.
Lashkar was formed in 1990 with help of Pakistani military intelligence, and remains one of best-funded militant groups fighting in Indian Kashmir.
Reporters, who visited the site, were fed on a lavish meal of biryani rice and chicken masala, were shown pupils identifying onion cells in a laboratory and a model of the human anatomy.
Headmaster Rashid Minhas was at pains to point out that his students were not drawn from among Pakistan’’s vulnerable underclass but were from “rich, aristocratic families”.
Former students claimed that pupils are given basic physical training at Muridke and then funnelled to training camps in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir.
“You will not find even a single pistol range here,” said Mohamed Saleem, a part time agricultural manager at Muridke.
The compound’’s inhabitants varied from jovial but pious, agricultural experts to a small group of young men sporting the intense expressions who withdrew to skulk furtively in the shade of a row of trees when approached. (ANI)
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