Banned Pakistani terror group suspected in Lahore attack

Jamaatuddawa-banner.jpg

Banner for the Jamaat-ud Dawa, the front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The banned Pakistani terror group behind the November 2008 terror assault in Mumbai is the prime suspect in this week’s attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.

The March 3 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team took place as the team was being transported to a stadium in the city. Terrorists killed six policemen and two civilians, and wounded eight members of the cricket team and 11 Pakistanis.

Pakistani investigators “are zeroing in on the footprints of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba,” Dawn reported. But the Pakistani investigators believe the attack was carried out by a rogue element of “headstrong Lashkar activists” and not ordered by the group’s leadership.

“Sketchy details of the initial probe suggest that a group of headstrong Lashkar activists, who went underground and remained in hiding in Rawalpindi after the crackdown on Lashkar and Jamaat-ud-Dawa in December, had acted on their own and carried out the attack,” the newspaper said.

It is thought that the Lahore attackers trained in camps run by Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, the senior military and operational commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba who is currently in Pakistani custody after being implicated as the mastermind of the Mumbai terror attack. The training, weapons used, size of the assault team, planning, and other aspects of the Lahore attack mirrored that of the Mumbai terror assault.

The investigation team has reached out to Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, “to help authorities in tracking down the attackers.” Saeed is currently under a loose house arrest after he was implicated by India for involvement in the Mumbai attack. Four other senior Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders, two Pakistani military officers, and 32 other Lashkar operatives have been charged by India for involvement in Mumbai.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa has long been known to be a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Saeed changed the group’s name from Lashkar-e-Taiba to Jamaat-ud-Dawa in 2002 after Lashkar was banned by the Pakistani government. Pakistan never acted against the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Instead, Saeed and his leaders re-branded the group as a Muslim charity to mask the operations of Lashkar-e-Taiba. Jamaat-ud-Dawa was named as a terrorist group by the United Nations Security Council in December 2008.

The Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa has established an organization that rivals Lebanese Hezbollah. The group succeeded in providing aid to earthquake-ravaged regions in Kashmir in 2005 while the Pakistani government was slow to act. Lashkar is active in fundraising across the Middle East and South Asia, and has recruited scores of Westerners to train in its camps.

Lashkar-e-Taiba has an extensive network in southern and Southeast Asia. A senior US military intelligence official described the group as “al Qaeda junior,” as it has vast resources, an extensive network, and is able to carry out complex attacks throughout its area of operations. “If by some stroke of luck al Qaeda collapsed, LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) could step in and essentially take its place,” the official told The Long War Journal in November 2008.

The relationship between al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba is complex, the official noted. “While Lashkar-e-Taiba is definitely subordinate to al Qaeda in many ways, it runs its own network and has its own command structure. The groups often train in each others’ camps, and fight side by side in Afghanistan.”

Lashkar-e-Taiba spokesman denied involvement

As investigators begin focusing on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terror group has reached out to the media to deny any involvement in the Lahore strike.

“These media reports are false, incorrect and baseless,” spokesman Abdullah Ghaznavi told AFP. “The attack on Sri Lanka’s team was an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty and Kashmiri militants could never even think of that (such an attack),” Ghaznavi said.

“The attack is the handiwork of Indian agencies to defame Pakistan and bring instability to the country,” Ghaznavi said, who also denied that the terror group conducted the Mumbai attack.

Ghaznavi’s denial of involvement and his implication of India closely matched statements made by Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s Minister of the Interior. Pakistani officials said Malik claimed Indian intelligence “organized the attack in a plot to isolate Pakistan and exclude it as a joint host for the 2011 Cricket World Cup,” the Telegraph reported.

Malik later said there was no evidence of Indian involvement in the Lahore attack but he would not rule out “the involvement of foreign hands.” Malik also said there was no evidence of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s involvement in the attack.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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2 Comments

  • Marlin says:

    Pakistani newspapers on Saturday are quoting unnamed former Pakistani intelligence officials as saying that al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants were responsible for the attack. At first glance it would seem that a credible investigation is taking place. I’m just very skeptical that once the national politicians get ahold of the report that anything meaningful will happen.

    ‘The indications are that it was one of our own homegrown groups, with possible linkages abroad,’ said the government official with knowledge of the investigation.
    […]
    A local newspaper, citing a former high-ranking intelligence official in Punjab, said al Qaeda-linked Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants were responsible for the attack.

    Dawn: Pakistani militants seen most likely behind attack

  • Marlin says:

    At least some portions of the Pakistani law enforcement entity are still trying.

    The man suspected of being the mastermind behind last week’s attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team escaped a police raid on his home in a village in northern Pakistan yesterday, security sources have told The Times.
    They identified him as Mohammed Aqeel, a member of the banned Islamic militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which has close links to al-Qaeda and has been active in Kashmir and Afghanistan.
    Mr Aqeel fled his home in Khauta district, about 30 miles from Islamabad, the capital, before the raid, the sources said.
    One of his associates, identified only by the name of Talat, was arrested, the sources said, without giving any further details about Mr Aqeel or Mr Talat.

    The Times: Lahore attack ‘mastermind’ escapes police raid in Punjab
    via PrairiePundit

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