Pakistan’s decision to set free the alleged mastermind of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai drew quick criticism from the United States, where President Donald Trump has demanded that Pakistani leaders take tougher action against terrorists.
Hafiz Saeed, who allegedly planned attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that left 164 people dead, including five at the local Chabad House, had been detained at his house in Lahore without charges since January. A Pakistan High Court had ordered his release, and police withdrew from the home after midnight Friday, his spokesman Habibullah Qamar said in a text message.
“The United States is deeply concerned” that Saeed has been released from house arrest, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. She said Saeed leads Lashkar-e-Taiba,”a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens.”
Saeed has consistently denied any involvement in the Mumbai attacks. He heads Islamic charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which the U.S. says is a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba. A United Nations Security Council panel placed sanctions on four alleged members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, including Saeed, in 2008 at the request of the U.S. and India.
Saeed’s detention in Lahore since January was initially interpreted as an attempt to placate the U.S., which has taken a tougher tone on Pakistan under Trump. In a speech in August, Trump said, “Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror” and that must change immediately or the U.S. would stop providing financial assistance.
(c) 2017, Bloomberg · Kamran Haider, Iain Marlow