US offers $10 million for Pakistani militant chief

By Sebastian Abbot

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, April 3 2012 5:26 a.m. MDT

Saeed has been particularly high-profile over the last few months as part of the leadership of the Difa-e-Pakistan, or Defense of Pakistan Council, which has held a series of large demonstrations opposing the resumption of NATO supplies and reconciliation with India.

A close aide to Saeed, Yahya Mujahid, claimed the U.S. decision to announce a bounty was driven by these activities. "It is another attack on Islam and Muslims by the Americans," he said.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, which means Army of the Pure, belongs to the Salafi movement, an ultraconservative branch of Islam similar to the Wahabi sect — the main Islamic branch in Saudi Arabia from which al-Qaida partly emerged. Lashkar-e-Taiba and al-Qaida operate separately but have been known to help each other when their paths intersect.

Analysts and terrorism experts agree that Pakistan's intelligence agency, known as the ISI, is still able to control Lashkar-e-Taiba, though the ISI denies it.

After it was banned by the Pakistani government in 2002, Lashkar-e-Taiba began operating under the name of Jamaat-ud-Dawwa, its social welfare wing.

It carries out charitable works in scores of villages — partially funded by the Punjab provincial government. It has used national disasters, such the devastating floods in 2010, as recruitment and fundraising opportunities.

Pakistan's tolerance of Lashkar-e-Taiba is rooted in its fear of neighboring India, with which it has fought three wars in 65 years. Analysts believe Pakistan still sees the group as useful in pressuring India, especially over Kashmir.

There are also fears about what would happen if Pakistan tried to crack down on the group, as it did with some other groups under U.S. pressure in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It lost control of some who turned against their former patrons, and found itself also dealing with homegrown extremists. Lashkar-e-Taiba has so far refused to turn against the government and attack inside Pakistan.

Associated Press writer Nirmala George contributed to this report from New Delhi.

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