Pakistan cracks down on LeT in face of US pressure (Roundup, combining different series)

December 8th, 2008 - 8:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad/Washington, Dec 8 (IANS) With pressure mounting from the US to act against the suspected perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks, Pakistani security forces have begun a crackdown on the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group that India has blamed for the outrage, arresting its commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi and 19 other fighters.In an operation that began Sunday, Pakistani security forces also sealed a camp of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, as the LeT was renamed after it was proscribed, in the Shawai Nullah neighbourhood of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir.

Indian and US intelligence officials say that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group was involved in the Mumbai strikes.

LeT chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed reacted angrily to the raids, saying the operation was being conducted “under Indian pressure” and was “unwarranted”. Talking to Geo News, Saeed said that the targeting of Kashmiri organizations “without any proof” was an “expression of weakness”.

Security forces had Sunday “launched a ‘quiet’ crackdown on activists belonging to the banned jihadi outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba in different parts of the country and Azad Jammu and Kashmir,” Dawn newspaper said Monday.

There are reports that similar action is being planned in some cities and towns of Punjab province.

“It is believed that the action taken by Pakistan against the Lashkar-e-Taiba will defuse to some extent the growing tension between the two neighbours,” Dawn said.

In Islamabad, no one from the government was available to comment on the media reports because of the Eid holidays.

“Police and civil administration officials in Muzaffarabad told reporters they did not know what was happening,” Dawn said.

Local residents, however, said they had seen army personnel taking control of the area along Shawai Nullah, some five km northwest of Muzaffarabad, where Jamaat-ud-Dawa possesses a large plot of land on which several buildings had been built.

“The Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT) of Hafiz Saeed occupied the same place before the organisation was proscribed,” Dawn said.

“I saw an army helicopter hovering over the area and around 5 p.m. I heard two or three loud explosions,” a woman who lives in the area told the newspaper on the telephone.

Another person said: “The helicopter may have airlifted people detained or injured during the operation.”

There were unconfirmed reports of an exchange of fire.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated that “non-state actors” acting from Pakistan’s territory were still its responsibility.

“I think there’s no doubt that Pakistani territory was used by probably non-state actors,” she said in interviews with US television networks Sunday though she did not “think that there is compelling evidence of involvement of Pakistani officials.”

Appearing on CNN, Rice said: “I do think that Pakistan has a responsibility to act, and it doesn’t matter that they’re non-state actors.”

With Islamabad’s ties with Washington as well as with India at stake, Pakistan must take action against the militants, Rice said. “The key here is that this investigation needs to go forward. It needs to be transparent,” she added.

Asked to clarify her use of the he word “probably,” Rice said: “I think that the evidence is that the terrorists did use territory in Pakistan.”

But she declined to say whether the terrorists trained in Pakistan or if they had any cooperation or if she believed that the LeT responsible for the Mumbai assault.

Asked about the relationship between LeT and the Pakistani government or its intelligence or military services, Rice said: “Well, there have been historic ties. There’s no doubt about that.”

In a separate report Monday, headlined “Pak plan to mend fences with India”, Dawn said: “Pakistan is sending an important message to the Indian leadership this week pertaining to the heightening of tension between the two nuclear neighbours.”

“The message is expected to greatly help in easing the situation. Pakistan’s high commissioner in India Shahid Malik, who is reaching here mid-week for the highest-level consultations, would carry the message to New Delhi,” the newspaper added.

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