Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, left, and Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, right. Images from Rewards for Justice website.
The US government has offered a $10 million bounty for the capture of Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the founder of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, or Army of the Pure. A lesser reward of $2 million is being offered for his brother-in-law, Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, the terror group’s deputy leader.
The rewards for Saeed and Makki were announced by US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman at the Aspen Institute yesterday, The Times of India reported.
Rewards for Justice, a program sponsored by the US State Department, added web pages for Saeed and Makki today.
Rewards for Justice described Saeed as “the founding member of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a radical Deobandi Islamist organization dedicated to installing Islamist rule over parts of India and Pakistan, and its military branch, Lashkar-e-Taiba.” Makki is described as “the second in command of Lashkar-e-Taiba.”
“Saeed is suspected of masterminding numerous terrorist attacks, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which resulted in the deaths of 166 people, including six American citizens,” Rewards for Justice continued.
As The Times of India notes, Saeed has one of the highest bounties for his capture offered by the US government. Only al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, at $25 million, has a higher bounty on his head. Saeed is now on par with Mullah Mohammed Omar, the head of the Taliban; Abu Du’a, the emir of al Qaeda in Iraq; and Yasin al Suri, a senior al Qaeda facilitator based in Iran; all have $10 million bounties. Saeed ranks above other terrorist leaders, including al Qaeda strategist and leader Saif al Adel and Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan emir Hakeemullah Mehsud.
The bounty on Saeed is sure to make waves in Pakistan, as Saeed is a public figure and popular among millions of Islamists and nationalists in the country. Saeed regularly appears on Pakistani television and is known to dine with top Pakistani Army generals.
Given Saeed’s popularity and his value to Pakistan’s military and intelligence service, it is highly unlikely Pakistan will lift a finger to detain Saeed. For years, US officials have complained about Pakistan’s unwillingness to deal with the terror group he founded, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, despite repeated pleas to have it dismantled.
“Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Pakistani government has shown no desire to shut down Lashkar-e-Taiba, despite the fact the group is operating in the open,” a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. “They are a state within a state, backed by the state’s intelligence service,” the official said, referring to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, which supports a host of terror groups in South Asia, including the Taliban. “They are untouchable.”
Background on Hafiz Saeed, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and al Qaeda
Osama bin Laden and his mentor Abdullah Azzam encouraged Saeed to form Lashkar-e-Taiba in the late 1980s, and helped fund the establishment of the terror outfit. Lashkar-e-Taiba, like al Qaeda, calls for the establishment of a global caliphate and receives funding from Saudis and other wealthy individuals throughout the Middle East.
Lashkar-e-Taiba is an ally of al Qaeda; the two groups provide support for each other, and their operatives train in each other’s camps. Lashkar-e-Taiba has established training camps in Kunar province in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the tribal areas, and in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and the Northern Areas.
Lashkar-e-Taiba forces fought alongside al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the assault on the US combat outpost in Wanat in Nuristan province, Afghanistan in July of 2008. Nine US troops were killed, and 15 US soldiers and four Afghan troops were wounded in the heavy fight that nearly culminated in the outpost being overrun. US forces ultimately beat back the attack, but abandoned the outpost days later.
Lashkar-e-Taiba has an extensive network in Southern and Southeast Asia, where it seeks to establish a Muslim caliphate. The group essentially runs a state within a state in Pakistan; the group has established an organization that is as effective as Lebanese Hezbollah. Its sprawling Muridke complex, just northwest of Lahore in Punjab province, is a town of its own. Throughout Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Lashkar-e-Taiba runs numerous hospitals, clinics, schools, mosques, and other services. In support of its activities, Lashkar is active in fundraising across the Middle East and South Asia, and the group has recruited scores of Westerners to train in its camps.
In 2005, the group succeeded in providing aid to earthquake-ravaged regions in Kashmir while the Pakistani government was slow to act. Over the last several years, Lashkar-e-Taiba provided relief to tens of thousands of internally displaced persons who have fled the fighting between the military and the Taliban in the Malakand Division as well as those impacted by the devastating floods in Pakistan in 2010.
The US government designated Lashkar-e-Taiba as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in December 2001. The Pakistani government banned the group in January 2002, but this did little to shut down its operations. The group renamed itself the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and conducted business as usual. After Mumbai, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa used the name Falah-i Insaniat Foundation (FIF), and continued fundraising and other activities. The US designated the FIF as a terrorist group in November 2010. Three FIF/Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders were also added by the US to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
In reality, Saeed and his leaders rebranded the group as a Muslim charity to mask the operations of Lashkar-e-Taiba. Saeed has been arrested several times by Pakistani security forces after attacks in India, but each time has been quietly released. After Mumbai, Pakistan claimed to shut down Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamaat-ud-Dawa offices and camps, and detained followers, but the efforts were largely cosmetic. Saeed was placed under a loose house arrest in December 2008, but by August 2009, the Lahore High Court said the government did not have grounds to keep him under house arrest.
Saeed and the Laskhar-e-Taiba have strong links with elements within Pakistan’s military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI. The Lashkar-e-Taiba is one of the primary terror groups used by Pakistan’s ISI to direct military and terror operations inside India and Indian-held Kashmir. During the 1999 Kargil War, when Pakistan invaded Indian-held Kashmir, the Lashkar-e-Taiba fought as the vanguard for Pakistani forces in the mountainous region. To this day, Lashkar-e-Taiba military and terror units continue to infiltrate into the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, with the help of Pakistan’s military.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.