United States May Brand Lashkar A Terrorist Outfit
29 September 2000
New Delhi: The United States may declare the pan- Islamic Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) a foreign terrorist organisation as part of its rejuvenated campaign to counter terrorism originating from South Asia. Highly placed sources in the Government here said the U.S. authorities were completing the necessary formalities for declaring the LeT, main suspect in the recent massacre of pilgrims in Pahalgam, a terrorist outfit. The subject of pan- Islamic terrorism and the organisations involved in it were discussed by the U.S. coordinator on counter-terrorism, Mr. Michael A. Sheehan, and Indian authorities here earlier this week. During the talks, the two sides agreed to create a data base on all fundamentalist organisations operating in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. They also agreed to deny ''liberated zones'' or areas outside the control of law enforcement agencies to terrorist outfits. It was felt that the existence of such zones were being used for narcotics cultivation and were therefore central to funding terrorist activity. Not surprisingly, the U.S. side interacted with officers of the Narcotics Control Bureau. In fact, the U.S. will pump in Rs. 91.8 lakhs for equipping and training Indians from this set-up. Determined to cut the financial links of terrorist outfits, it was agreed that all contributions coming from Europe, West Asia and Canada be carefully scrutinised. Special attention should be paid to tracking the end-users of these funds who may be connected to international terrorist networks. It was also decided that the activities of foreign terrorist organisations, which change their names should be monitored and intelligence related to their current activities shared. For instance, the Harkat-ul-Ansar which was operating from Pakistan changed its name to Harkat-ul-Mujahideen after the U.S. declared it a terrorist organisation. The Harkat, according to leading Pakistani scholars, shifted its key bases and training camps to Afghanistan in the mid-nineties. Sources here feel the LeT too may migrate to Afghanistan. Such a shift, however, is likely to benefit the Jaish-e-Mohammed, led by the cleric Masood Azhar, released by Indian authorities to terminate the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane in Kandahar. The Jaish-e-Mohammed is believed to have taken over most of the infrastructure vacated by the Harkat in Pakistan. The likely ''vacuum'' after the LeT''s departure may also be filled in by this outfit. With a liaison between terrorists and underworld operators becoming increasingly visible, the Indian side is seeking U.S. help for a legal arrangement to counter the menace.