“Crackdown will not cripple LeT”

9 December 2008
The Hindu

Washington: The crackdown by the Pakistani security forces on the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which has been linked to the Mumbai carnage, will not cripple the banned organisation, a coordinator of the militant group has said. Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operational commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi, accused of masterminding the attacks, is among more than 20 activists of the Lashkar and its front organisation, Jamaat-ud-Dawah, arrested since the crackdown began on Sunday. “We’re still well-organised and active,” a Lashkar coordinator told The Washington Times in the paper’s front page exclusive datelined Lahore. Speaking in a safe house near Lahore, Pakistan’s second-largest city, on the condition of anonymity presumably to avoid arrest, the paper said the militant put the organisation’s strength in the “thousands” in Pakistan. He said the group has “huge strength” and is concentrated in Pakistan’s tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan. It should not be surprising that Mohammad Ajmal Amir ‘Kasab,’ the Lashkar terrorist captured in India, is not a recognisable name because those who join his group are given other names, the coordinator said. “All those who join these organisations are given Arabic names,” he said. “Sometimes to make them less conspicuous they’re given non-Arabic but purely Muslim names,” as also in the fact that names are changed every six to eight months for the fighters. He denied that the group had to purchase recruits. The origin The LeT was created by Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) two decades ago to create insurgency in Kashmir. The LeT, founded by Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, 63, has a sprawling headquarter complex in Muridke, just outside Lahore. Lashkar has been implicated in multiple acts of terrorism in India and though banned by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in 2002, has reorganised. According to the organiser, the jihadists’ training is rigorous, takes place in the tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan and is divided into several parts. The organiser said Ajmal was obviously well-trained but didn’t seem to be a Lashkar member. “We don’t kill innocents, he said. That’s not the way we operate.”