Pakistan says 71 arrested in Mumbai crackdown

Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said some 124 members of an Islamic charity linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which New Delhi has blamed for the Mumbai bombings in late November, have been placed under strict house arrest.

CA Online and wire services

2009-01-17

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan reaffirmed its commitment to root out extremists on its soil saying on January 15 it had so far arrested 71 in a crackdown on banned groups.

Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik announced the arrests, and added that 124 members of an Islamic charity linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which New Delhi has blamed for the Mumbai bombings in late November, were placed under strict house arrest.

"Those who are placed under surveillance cannot leave their homes or area without informing the authorities about it. This is stringent surveillance." Suspects were being watched under Pakistan's anti-terror act.

Malik said Pakistan was "very, very serious" about fighting extremism, saying the anti-terror fight was the "only option" for Islamabad.

The 71 people taken to prison are members of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, one of the country's largest charities that is widely viewed as the political wing of LeT, banned in Pakistan after an attack on the Indian parliament in late 2001.

The crackdown came in response to a U.N. Security Council resolution passed last month describing Jamaat-ud-Dawa as a terror group. Immediately after the resolution was passed, Pakistan placed the charity's leader Hafiz Saeed, who also founded LeT, under house arrest and froze the group's assets.

Malik said January 15 the state had since shut down five Jamaat-ud-Dawa camps, blocked six websites and closed several religious schools. The senior official said that Islamabad needed more information from India in order to proceed with its own probe into the attacks in Mumbai and eventual prosecution of suspects, but expressed solidarity with New Delhi: "We are with you. We have given commitment to the international community. We have to fight our common enemy. This is the time that Pakistan and India need to stick together."

According to Malik, a high-powered team from the Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency would review all material provided by India in connection with the Mumbai attacks, which killed 174 people including nine of the gunmen. Islamabad "will inquire into this matter with full conviction", he said.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said January 13 that he did not believe the Pakistan had directed the attacks. Miliband arrived in Pakistan January 16 for talks with senior officials.

[AFP]

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