December 2001 News

US ''certificate'' not needed, Jihad in J&K continues: LeT

27 December 2001
The Indian Express
Zulfiqar Ali

Muzaffarabad, Pakistan: Lashkar-e-Toiba breathed defiance on Thursday after being placed on the US list of terrorist organisations, saying it would pursue its ''holy war'' to free Kashmir. US Secretary of State Colin Powell announced on Wednesday that he had put two Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups on the list, boosting Indian arguments that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf should shut them down. ''The American decision will make no difference for us. We do not need an American certificate to carry out our jihad (holy war),'' Lashkar-e-Toiba spokesman Aftab Hussain said in a statement issued in Muzaffarabad. ''We started our jihad on Allah''s orders and it will continue,'' he said. He dismissed the charges that the group-accused by New Delhi of taking part in the December 13 attack on Parliament- was involved in activities that could be termed terrorist. ''We are fighting Indian terrorism in Kashmir,'' he said. India has demanded Pakistan arrest leaders of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba, which it says were responsible for the attack on Parliament in which 14 people were killed, including the five militants. Both of the groups deny any involvement. Relations between the two countries have deteriorated sharply since the attack on Parliament. US EFFORT TO EASE TENSION Security officials on Tuesday detained Maulana Azhar Masood, leader of Jaish, and his followers warned of unspecified consequences if he was not released. Azhar has been operating his group since India freed him and two others from prison in exchange for passengers of an Indian Airlines plane hijacked to the Afghan city of Kandahar in December 1999. The US list now has 27 members including Osama bin Laden''s al Qaeda network, half a dozen Islamic groups said to have ties to it and several groups linked to the West Asia conflict. Powell did not link the two groups with the attack on Parliament building but accused them of conducting numerous attacks in both countries in the name of ending Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir. The United States has been engaged in a frantic diplomatic effort to keep a lid on tensions between the two countries after radically improving relations with Pakistan to reward Musharraf for supporting its war in Afghanistan. President George W. Bush had already moved to block assets of Lashkar-e-Toiba on December 20. Jaish-e-Mohammad was also on a Treasury Department list ordering assets to be frozen. Powell''s move freezes any US assets the groups have and makes it illegal to support them financially. It also allows US authorities to deny visas to members of the groups, already blacklisted under separate anti-terrorism moves by the Bush administration since suicide hijackers flew passenger planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and Pentagon near Washington. The State Department issues its list of foreign terrorist organisations twice a year but Powell has the right to make additions to the line-up whenever a group is shown to qualify. The last publication was on October 5, when 25 groups were listed, including Harakat-ul-Mujahidin based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, one of a dozen groups fighting New Delhi''s rule in Kashmir and which is also alleged to have links to al Qaeda.


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