Arrests won't affect us, jihad will continue: Lashkar

10 December 2008
The Hindustan Times

New Delhi/ Lahore : A Lashkar-e-Taiba coordinator has said that the arrest of at least 20 Jamaat-ud-Dawa activists, including the purported mastermind of the Mumbai terror attacks, Zaki-u-Rehman Lakhvi, on the outskirts of Muzaffarabad, will not stop the militant outfit from continuing with its activities. 'We are still well-organised and active,' the Washington Times quoted the Lashkar coordinator, as saying during an interaction at a safe house near Lahore. The Lashkar fighter in Lahore said the group has 'huge strength' and is concentrated in Pakistan's tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan. He ran his fingers through his bushy beard as he sat in a dingy room for the interview, surrounded by boys’ ages 15 to 20 that listened intently as he spoke. The man stood uncomfortably against the wall throughout the interview, his eyes avoiding contact with the interviewer. 'The Lashkar definitely has the capability and the capacity to conduct attacks such as those which took place in Mumbai,' said Rasool Baksh Raees, a political science professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. The Lashkar organiser denied that the group had to purchase recruits. 'Young boys come to us usually because their friends have convinced them, because they believe jihad is the epitome of being a good Muslim or because their families are involved,' he said. Sharmeen Obaid, a filmmaker who has covered jihadists in Pakistan extensively, said that selling boys into jihad is a common practice. 'It's happening more and more nowadays as people become more desperate for money in Pakistan,' she said. 'After the [2007 Kashmir] earthquake when a large number of children became orphans, I was told that a number of them were sold to organizations such as Lashkar, she added. She said the price for one recruit could range from 10,000 to 19,000 dollars. 'Sufi shrines and mosques are usual meeting grounds for young boys,' the Lashkar organiser said. However, Yahya Muhammed, a spokesman for Lashkar-e-Taiba, has denied that the organisation has training camps. 'The Jamaat-ud-Dawa was formed in 1986, while the Lashkar-e-Toiba was formed in 1986 and our main aim was to help our Kashmiri brothers,' he said.