(Adds comment from Saeed's group)
By Frank Jack Daniel
NEW DELHI, April 3 The United States has posted
a $10 million reward for help in the arrest of a Pakistani
Islamist leader, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, suspected of
masterminding attacks on India's financial capital and its
The reward comes at a time of heightened tension between the
United States and Pakistan and is likely to increases pressure
on Pakistan to take action against the former Arabic scholar,
who has recently addressed rallies in Pakistan despite an
Interpol warrant for him.
Released from house arrest in 2009, Saeed is a free man in
India has long called for Saeed's capture and said the
bounty - one of the highest on offer - was a sign the United
States understood its security concerns. Last week, Saeed evaded
police to address an anti-U.S. rally in the Pakistani capital.
"India welcomes this new initiative of the government of the
United States," Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna
said on Tuesday of the bounty announced on the U.S. Rewards for
"In recent years, India and the United States have moved
much closer than ever before in our common endeavour of fighting
The United States only offers a $10 million reward for three
other people it suspects of terrorism, with a single reward of
up to $25 million for Egyptian-born Al Qaeda leader Ayman
al-Zawahiri. There was previously no U.S. bounty for Saeed.
In the 1990s, Saeed founded Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), one of
the largest and best-funded Islamist militant organisations in
South Asia. He abandoned its leadership after India accused it
and another militant group of being behind an attack on the
Indian parliament in December 2001.
Saeed's freedom of movement in Pakistan has angered India,
which says it has given its neighbour a dossier of evidence to
arrest the bespectacled firebrand.
"There is enough material to detain him and we feel the
Pakistan government is not doing its duty," Home Minister P.
Chidambaram told Reuters.
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zadari is due to visit India
on Sunday and is expected to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
CHARITY A FRONT?
Saeed heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) charity, described by
the United Nations as a front for the LeT, which is banned in
Pakistan. He denies any connection to the LeT.
Yahya Mujahid, the JuD's spokesman, said the reward was a
reaction to his group's campaign against attacks in Pakistan by
U.S. drone aircraft and its opposition to supplies being
transported through Pakistan to NATO forces in Afghanistan.
"This inappropriate American behaviour will not cause any
problems for Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, but it will definitely
intensify anti-American sentiments in the hearts of millions of
Muslims," Mujahid said in a statement.
Saeed, 61, is suspected of masterminding numerous attacks,
including the November 2008 militant assault on Mumbai in which
166 people, including six U.S. citizens, were killed.
Ten Pakistani gunmen killed commuters, foreigners and some
of India's wealthy business elite in the three-day rampage in
the city, which included attacks on two luxury hotels, a Jewish
centre and a train station.
This year, Saeed has made appearances in support of the
Defence Council of Pakistan, an alliance of groups campaigning
for a break in ties with the United States and India.
The LeT was nurtured by Pakistan's Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI) spy agency to fight Indian forces in disputed
Kashmir and analysts say it is still unofficially tolerated by
Pakistan, though it was banned there in 2002.
Admiral Robert Willard, the head of the U.S. military's
Pacific Command, last year expressed concern over the expanding
reach of LeT, saying it was no longer solely focused on India,
or even in South Asia.
(Reporting By Frank Jack Daniel; Additional reporting by Sheree
Sardar in ISLAMABAD; Editing by Qasim Nauman and Robert Birsel)