LeT commander arrested in Pakistani crackdown: reports (Lead)

December 8th, 2008 - 1:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Dec 8 (IANS) Apparently acting under international pressure, Pakistan has cracked down on the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that India has blamed for the Mumbai terror attacks and arrested the group’s commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi, media reports Monday said. “Security forces have 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 said.

In Muzaffarabad, the “capital” of Pakistani Kashmir, “a major army operation was under way in the city suburbs on Sunday against a site being used by the Jamaatud Dawa (as the LeT is known since it was banned), which is headed by Hafiz Mohammad Saeed. Sources said that more than 20 members of the banned organisation and Lashkar-i-Taiba’s ‘commander’ Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi had been arrested”, the newspaper added.

BBCurdu.com carried a similar dispatch Monday, quoting unnamed sources as saying the security forces had taken control of a camp where Kashmiri militants are reportedly being trained.

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

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was quoted as saying that “there is evidence of involvement somehow on Pakistani soil” in the Mumbai terrorist attacks but US officials did not think the Pakistani government was involved in the strikes, which claimed 172 lives and injured more than 250.

“The government of Pakistan very much wants to do the right thing because they understand that even if these were non-state actors, which I believe they were, non-state actors operating on Pakistani soil, it is still Pakistan’s responsibility to respond,” Rice added.

Also on Sunday, the Washington Post reported that the US had given Pakistan 48 hours to arrest the LeT’s Lakhwi, as also former Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) chief Hamid Gul for the alleged complicity of the terror group and the spy agency in the Mumbai attacks.

“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 Jamaatud 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.

Ambulances from various city hospitals had been called to the area by troops but witnesses said they returned without any injured person.

On its part, the Jamaatud Dawa denied links to any militant or terrorist camps saying that it was involved only in education and social welfare activities. The US government lists the LeT as one of the alternate identities of the Jamaatud Dawa.

“I am not sure if any raid has been conducted on any camp, and secondly, we don’t have any camps giving military training to anyone,” a Jamaatud Dawa spokesperson said.

However, the BBC report said that a Jamaatud Dawa leader in Muzaffarabad had confirmed the raid but requested not to be identified.

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