The US expressed horror on Friday over the release by Pakistan this week of Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the November 2008 terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai whose targets included Nariman House, the local Chabad center.
“The United States is deeply concerned that Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) leader Hafiz Saeed has been released from house arrest in Pakistan,” a statement from the State Department declared on Friday. “LeT is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in terrorist attacks, including a number of American citizens. The Pakistani government should make sure that he is arrested and charged for his crimes.”
The statement noted that in May 2008, “the United States Department of the Treasury designated Saeed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.”
“Since 2012, the United States has offered a U.S. $10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice,” the statement continued.
On November 26, 2008, ten LeT operatives entered Mumbai by sea and launched a coordinated gun-and-bomb assault on multiple sites in India’s most populous metropolis, killing 166 people — including six Jews at Nariman House.
Saeed had been under house arrest in the Pakistani city of Lahore since January. A Lahore court this week ordered his release, rejecting the Pakistani government’s arguments that he was a threat to public safety. Dozens of cheering supporters greeted Saeed as he exited the court.
In an interview with the BBC, Saeed said the court’s decision was proof of his innocence with regard to the Mumbai attacks. “India has always leveled allegations of terrorism…but (Lahore) High Court decision has proved that all of India’s propaganda are false,” Saeed said.
Speaking to a crowd of followers, Saeed declared, “I am not struggling for any personal gains. My struggle is aimed at safeguarding the interests of Pakistan. I want Kashmir’s freedom from India and this is my crime.”
India reacted to Saeed’s release with fury, describing it as “an attempt by the Pakistani system to mainstream proscribed terrorists.”
“Pakistan has not changed its policy of shielding and supporting non-state actors and its true face is visible for all to see,” an Indian government spokesperson said on Thursday.