Army raids LeT compound in Kashmir, say witnesses
Tariq Naqash and Syed Irfan Raza
Monday, 08 Dec, 2008 (Dawn)
MUZAFFARABAD/ISLAMABAD: 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.
In Muzaffarabad, a major army operation was under way in the city suburbs on Sunday against a site being used by the Jamaatud Dawa, which is headed by Hafiz Mohammad Saeed. Sources said that more than 20 members of the banned organisation and Lashkar-e-Taiba’s ‘commander’ Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi had been arrested.
There are reports that similar actions are planned in some cities and towns of Punjab. Pakistan is under international pressure to take action against the organisation for its alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
However, reports of the crackdown could not be confirmed from the interior ministry or the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
Police and civil administration officials in Muzaffarabad told reporters they did not know what was happening.
Local residents, however, said they had seen army personnel taking control of the area along Shawai Nullah, some five kilometres northwest of Muzaffarabad, where the organisation 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.
“I saw an army helicopter hovering over the area and around 5pm I heard two or three loud explosions,” a woman who lives in the area told Dawn on phone.
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.
In Chehla Bandi, soldiers are reported to be checking vehicles bound for the Neelum Valley.
Several attempts were made to obtain army’s version about the reported operation but reporters were told that a statement would soon be issued by the ISPR.
A Jamaatud Dawa office-bearer denied that a crackdown had been launched on his organisation in other areas. The organisation has another office in Muzaffarabad where no such action was taken.
However, AFP quoted an intelligence official as saying that three Jamaat-ud-Dawa members had been arrested on Monday.
‘Three people were rounded up in a brief operation against the Islamic charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa,’ the official said.
‘The raid was carried out to get details about the activities of the group in Kashmir in the wake of allegations by India that LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) was using Pakistani territory for training.’ The arrests took place Sunday at the charity’s offices outside the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir, Muzaffarabad, where the banned Islamic group Lashkar-e-Taiba is active.
Senior government officials refused to confirm or deny the arrests, which came as international pressure mounted on Pakistan to act against the group seen as the number one suspect in last month’s devastating Mumbai attacks.
News of the arrests emerged hours after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday urged Pakistan to act quickly and said there was evidence the country was used by ‘non-state actors’ to mount the attacks.
‘I do think that Pakistan has a responsibility to act,’ Rice said in a televisions interview.
Earlier Sunday, the Pakistan government declined to comment on a report that it had agreed to a 48-hour deadline set by the United States and India to hand over Pakistanis suspected of involvement in the attacks and form a plan of action against Lashkar-e-Taiba. (Daily Dawn)
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