Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), on Wednesday denounced the $10 million bounty offered on his head by the United States a day earlier as "ridiculous and misguided."
Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Islamabad, Saeed said he was neither a fugitive from American law or a militant in hiding from authorities in Pakistan. Saeed also suggested that the reward money should be given to him as his whereabouts in Pakistan are well known.
"I am here, I am visible, I will be in Lahore tomorrow. America can contact me whenever it wants to," Saeed said. He also dared the United States to carry out a military raid against him like the one that killed Osama bin Laden.
On Tuesday, the United States had announced a $10 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Hafiz Saeed. The U.S. State Department's Rewards for Justice website describes him a suspect in masterminding numerous terror strikes, including the November 2008 Mumbai attacks in which killed 166 people, including six Americans.
The US also offered a $2 million bounty for Saeed's brother-in-law and LeT co-founder Abdul Rahman Makki, who is described on the Rewards for Justice website as the "second in command" of the terrorist organization.
Only three other terrorist leaders carry a U.S. bounty of $10 million on their head. They are the senior leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq Abu Du'a, one-eyed Taliban chief Mullah Omar and Yasin al-Suri alias Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil-- a young al-Qaeda facilitator based in Iran.
According to Rewards for Justice, Saeed is a former Professor of Arabic and Engineering, as well as the founding member of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, "a radical Deobandi Islamist organization dedicated to installing Islamist rule over parts of India and Pakistan, and its military branch, Lashkar-e-Toiba."
Saeed now heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, widely seen as a front for LeT - which is blamed for the multiple 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The US has blacklisted both Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Lashkar-e-Toiba as terrorist outfits.
The US designated LeT as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in December 2001, while Jamaat-ud-Dawa was brought under the same category in April 2008. The United Nations declared Jamaat-ud-Dawa a terrorist organization in December 2008.
Saeed was included in a list of 50 "most wanted fugitives" India handed over to Pakistan, alleging that they were hiding in that country. India also issued an Interpol Red Corner Notice against Saeed for his role in the Mumbai terror attacks. Pakistan government confined him to house arrest for less than six months after the Mumbai attacks, only to release him in 2009 on the orders of the Lahore High Court.
During a US visit in 2009, India's Interior Minister P. Chidambaram had conveyed New Delhi's concerns about security threats from Pakistan to the Obama Administration. He said Hafiz Saeed was roaming free in Pakistani cities leading anti-India jihadi rallies despite evidence indicating that he masterminded the Mumbai attacks.
India welcomed the rewards offered by the US for Saeed and Makki, with the country's Foreign Affairs Ministry saying in a statement that the move "reflects the commitment of India and the United States to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attack to justice and continuing efforts to combat terrorism."
by RTT Staff Writer
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