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UN adds Pakistani militants to terrorist watch list

The three Pakistanis and one Saudi named belong to Lashkar-e-Taiba.

By Jonathan S. LandayMcClatchy Newspapers  / December 12, 2008


A United Nations Security Council committee put three Pakistani leaders of the group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and a Saudi operative on a terrorist watch list Wednesday as new evidence surfaced that the group blamed for the Mumbai (formerly Bombay) attacks has expanded its activities and its fundraising well beyond South Asia.

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A UN document obtained by McClatchy said that LeT has sent operatives to attack US troops in Iraq, established a branch in Saudi Arabia, and been raising funds in Europe. The group may also have received money from Al Qaeda, suggesting that it has close ties with Osama bin Laden's terrorist network based along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, the document said.

Although Pakistan's government outlawed LeT in May 2002, it "continues to operate and engage in or support terrorist activities abroad," the document said.

"Is there real concern about Lashkar trying to expand its footprint? The answer is yes," said a US counterterrorism official in response to questions about the document, which the UN committee reviewed before voting to add the four, to the watch list. He requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly.

US intelligence officials worry that as the US-led campaign against Al Qaeda has taken a toll on its leaders, restricted the movement of its members, and curbed its financial support, Mr. bin Laden and his second-in-command, Ayman al Zawahiri, have cultivated ties with other militant Islamist groups, especially non-Arab ones such as LeT.

The UN document, which describes some of LeT's activities and fundraising, names LeT founder Muhammad Saeed as the group's "overall leader and chief," and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged military coordinator who was arrested by security forces on Sunday on the Pakistan-held side of the divided Kashmir region.

The UN Security Council Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee also added Haji Muhammad Ashraf, whom the UN document calls Lashkar's finance chief, and Mahmoud Mohammad Ahmed Bahaziq, whom it describes as a key propagandist who once coordinated fund-raising activities in Saudi Arabia, to the watch list.

The committee said in a statement that three of the four reside in Pakistan: Mr. Saeed, who insists that he left LeT to run a charity that the US considers a LeT front organization, Mr. Lakhvi and Mr. Ashraf. It said that Mr. Bahaziq is from Saudi Arabia.

Individuals and groups placed on the UN list are subject to international sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans. LeT was included on the list in May 2005.