Pakistan arrests do little to stop LeT: Report

December 10th, 2008 - 12:18 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 9 (IANS) The Lashker-e-Taiba will not be crippled by the arrest of the purported mastermind of the Mumbai attacks and at least 19 other members of the militant group, an LeT coordinator has told a US daily.”We´re still well-organised and active,” the unnamed militant, who serves as a coordinator for the outlawed Pakistan-based terror group, was quoted as saying by the Washington Times in an interview conducted in a safe house near Lahore.

The LeT coordinator told the daily that the organisation’s strength in Pakistan was in the thousands even though it was outlawed in 2002.

Pakistan Monday announced the arrest of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, alleged organiser of the Nov 26 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, who was among 20 arrested during a raid in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

The LeT has “huge strength” and is concentrated in Pakistan’s tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan, the militant was quoted as saying.

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 who listened intently as he spoke, the Times said.

Inside the room was a wooden cupboard, a bed and two chairs. The walls were blank, and the space was lit by a solitary lamp. The man stood uncomfortably against the wall throughout the interview, his eyes avoiding the female reporter’s face.

The sole gunman arrested in the Mumbai attacks, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, 21, has told Indian authorities that he is an LeT member. According to news reports, Kasab was born in a village called Faridkot in southern Punjab, Pakistan.

Reporters who have visited the village have been unable to find anyone who knows Kasab, the Times said. The LeT organiser said this didn´t surprise him because those who join his group are given other names.

“All those who join these organisations are given Arabic names,” he said. “Sometimes to make them less conspicuous, they´re given non-Arabic but purely Muslim names.”

Many of the members are school dropouts, the Times said citing those familiar with the workings of the LeT. One former member, who gave his name as Muhammed Yusuf, 27, told the Times in a telephone interview that he joined the outfit four years ago but became disillusioned with the organisation within months and left.

The LeT organiser 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 was quoted as saying.

“Sufi shrines and mosques are usual meeting grounds for young boys,” he said. “Often boys meet at these mosques and become friends. Then if one of the friends start becoming religious, he convinces the others to follow suit.” The organiser said this was how he was inducted into the militant outfit.

Yusuf, the former LeT member, said the process of induction into a jihadist outfit begins with teaching boys about Islam.

Yahya Muhammed, an LeT spokesman, has denied that the organisation has training camps.

But the Lashker organiser contradicted the spokesman’s account. He said jihadist training is rigorous, takes place in the tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan and is divided into several parts.

The first part involves classes that “last for 40 days and during this course, we are taught the use of light machine guns, Kalashnikovs, G3 pistols and grenades”, he said.

“By the end of the training, we are able to assemble a Kalashnikov with our eyes blindfolded.”

The second part, known as Hezbollah, “continues for 30 days and involves the making of bombs, use of chemicals and detonators etcetera,” he said. A third part involves training in guerrilla fighting, he said.

He said a fourth part was reserved for a very few. He said he had not received the training and so could not describe it.

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