The US Treasury Department has targeted three senior leaders of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba by designating them as global terrorists. The two terror groups receive support from Pakistan’s military and its intelligence service.
Today under Executive Order 13224, the Treasury added Massod Azhar, the leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders Azam Cheema, a top military commander, and Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, a political official, to the list of specially designated global terrorists. The designation allows the US to freeze the assets of the the senior leaders, prevent them from using financial institutions, and prosecute them for terrorist activities.
The Lashkar-e-Taiba has launched multiple terror attacks against India, including the 2008 terror assault on the city of Mumbai which killed 165 civilians and Indian security forces. The Jaish-e-Mohammed has also participated in multiple terror attacks in India. Operating together, the two terror groups executed the December 2001 terror assault on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi. And both groups carry out attacks against Coalition and Afghan forces in Afghanistan, and serve as al Qaeda affiliates in the region.
Pakistan has refused to crack down on homegrown terror groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba, despite their covert and overt support for al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other terror groups. Inside Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, the real powers in Pakistan, groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba are seen as “strategic depth” against India, and are used as instruments of foreign policy.
Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba who has been designated by the US and the UN as a terrorist, remains a free man in Pakistan despite openly supporting jihad in both India and Pakistan, and his group’s involvement in Mumbai and other terror attacks. Pakistani Army corps commanders, who occupy some of the senior-most positions in the military, openly cavort with Saeed.
Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (right).
Azhar is a longtime jihadi who trained at the same religious seminary as Afghanistan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Azhar was released from an Indian jail in exchange for hostages held in an Indian Airlines flight hijacking in December 1999. Azhar’s brother, Mohammed Ibrahim Athar Alvi, took part in the hijacking.
Azhar established Jaish-e-Mohammed the next year as an offshoot of the Harkat-ul-Ansar (or Harakat-ul-Mujahideen), one of many terror groups created with the help of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency to fight the Indians in India-occupied Kashmir.
Jaish-e-Mohammed was implicated along with the Lashkar-e-Taiba as being behind the Dec. 13, 2001, attack on the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi. In October 2001, the US added Jaish-e-Mohammed as a foreign terrorist organization. In 2002, Sheikh Ahmed Saeed Omar, a close associate of Azhar, was behind the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Azhar has been in Pakistani detention at least three times in the past decade. He was briefly detained after the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, but was cleared of charges by a court in Lahore. Pakistani police detained Azhar after the 2003 assassination attempts against then-President Pervez Musharraf, but freed him months later. And in December 2008, in the wake of the Mumbai terror assault, Pakistan placed Azhar under house arrest (the government later denied this, it is thought he was placed under house arrest then quietly freed). He is since thought to have fled to South Waziristan and may now be based in North Waziristan along with many of his followers.
Azhar and Jaish-e-Mohammed have been openly recruiting Pakistanis to fight in Afghanistan, according to the US Treasury. “In 2008, JEM recruitment posters in Pakistan contained a call from Azhar for volunteers to join the fight in Afghanistan against Western forces,” Treasury stated.
Cheema is the commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Indian operations branch, known as the Dasta Mohammad bin Qasim. He is believed to have been a critical member of the team that planned and prepared the 2008 Mumbai assault.
“Cheema has also been described as LET’s surveillance or intelligence chief and has been involved in LET’s training activities, specifically training LET members in bomb making and skills needed to infiltrate India,” Treasury stated. “The cell that carried out the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India received some of their training from Cheema. He is also reported to have been involved in the July 2006 Mumbai train bombings perpetrated by LET.”
He was the “former LET commander for Bahawalpur, Punjab Province, Pakistan,” and was “appointed to be an operations advisor to LET senior leader Zaki-Ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who was also previously designated by the UN 1267 Committee. As of 2004, Cheema was identified as being responsible for LET’s external operational planning.”
In December 2008, India demanded that Cheema, Lakhvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed, and a host of other terrorists based in Pakistan be turned over by the Pakistani government. The request was refused.
Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki
In late 2008, Makki was appointed by Saeed as the chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s “political affairs department” as well as the head of the ” foreign relations department.”
Makki is also a prolific financier for the terror group.
“Makki has also played a role in raising funds for LET. In early 2007, he gave approximately $248,000 to an LET training camp and approximately $165,000 to an LET-affiliated madrassa,” Treasury stated.
For more on the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate’s involvement with Pakistani terror groups, see Pakistan’s Jihad.