US tightens grip on Lashkar-e-Taiba


WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday further tightened its grip on Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) by adding yet another of its aliases to its terrorists list.

In a separate notification, also issued on Wednesday, the US Department of Treasury also added two senior LeT leaders — Muhammad Sarwar and Shahid Mahmood — to its list of declared terrorists.

In a statement the US State Department recalled that it in December 2001, it designated LeT as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation. “Since the original designation occurred, LeT has repeatedly changed its name and created front organisations … to avoid sanctions,” the statement noted.

Soon after the group assumes a new name, the State Department adds it to its list of terrorist outfits. “To that effect, Al-Muhammadia Students (AMS) is the student wing of LeT. Founded in 2009, AMS is a subsidiary of LeT and has worked with senior LeT leaders to organise recruiting courses and other activities for youth,” said the latest notification.

The notification puts a “prohibition against knowingly providing, or attempting or conspiring to provide, material support or resources to, or engaging in transactions with this organisation.” It also blocks all property and interests the group or the individuals might have within the US jurisdiction.

In the other designation, the US Treasury Depart­ment identifies Muhammad Sarwar as a senior LeT official in Lahore for over 10 years who has held various leadership roles in the group, including his current position as LeT’s emir for Lahore.

Sarwar maintains relationships with LeT’s most senior leaders. Between 2012 and 2013, Sarwar worked with LeT’s foreign affairs chief Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, and in early 2013, Makki asked Sarwar for money to pay for his travel within Pakistan.

The US notification pointed out that Sarwar has been directly involved in LeT fundraising activities and uses the formal financial system in Pakistan to raise and move funds on behalf of LeT. In 2008, Sarwar led delegations of businessmen to LeT facilities for the purpose of soliciting donations, and as of mid-2009, Sarwar was one of two officials who headed LeT’s finance wing in Lahore.

The notification identifies Shahid Mahmood as a longstanding senior LeT member based in Karachi. He has been affiliated with the group since 2007 and between June 2015 and June 2016, Mahmood served as the vice chairman of Falah-i-Insaniat Founda­tion (FIF), a humanitarian and fundraising arm of LeT. FIF has been designated as an alias for LeT by the State Department as well as by the UN committee for counter-terrorism. In 2014, Mahmood was the leader of FIF in Karachi.

The Treasury claimed that since 2012, Mahmood has routinely travelled overseas and worked with international organisations on behalf of LeT to conduct business for the group in FIF’s name. In 2012, Mahmood travelled to Bangladesh to distribute funds to a Burmese migrant camp for the purpose of facilitating LeT recruitment. In August 2012, Mahmood, while in charge of the Sindh chapter of FIF, led a LeT delegation to Myanmar, and in mid-2014, he travelled to Syria and Turkey and was subsequently appointed to lead FIF efforts in both countries. Mahmood has also travelled to Gaza.

Mahmood was previously part of LeT’s overseas operations team led by Sajid Mir. In August 2012, the State Department put Mir on its terrorists list. While part of LeT’s operations team, Mahmood’s areas of responsibility included Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh.

In August 2013, Mahmood was instructed to forge covert links with Islamic organisations in Bangladesh and Myanmar, and as of late 2011, Mahmood claimed that LeT’s primary concern should be attacking India and America.

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