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Pakistan floods: Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Islamists linked to India's Mumbai attack, offer aid

As Pakistan floods displace millions, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a militant Islamist group linked to the 2008 terrorist assault on Mumbai, India, is distributing aid in northwest Pakistan.

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At the JuD aid "camp" on the main road east out of Charsadda, huge pots, used to cook on an industrial scale, were lined up, and the cooked food already had been distributed to the needy. An ambulance, no longer needed to ferry the injured, was being loaded with bundles of second-hand clothing to be given away. JuD also was running a first aid clinic in a building in town belonging to a college, the group said.

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The group is operating under the name of Falah-e-Insaniyat but has made little effort to disguise that it's JuD. Its staff said that it had 2,000 members working for flood relief, across the northwest and south into Punjab province. The uniform vests worn by many of the volunteers bear the badges of both JuD and Falah-e-Insaniyat.
"If the government were doing this work, there would be no need for us," said Hajji Makbool Shah, a 55-year-old volunteer at the aid camp. "When the floods came, we carried people out on our shoulders to our own ambulances. Where were the government ambulances?"

Shah said he's a member of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, but the aid was being distributed under the Falah-e-Insaniyat arm of the organization.

"They put the blame on us for the Mumbai attack, but we have nothing to do with such activities, we do only relief work," Shah said.

Yaya Mujahid, the national spokesman for JuD, said the group is working "in coordination" with Falah-e-Insaniyat.

"We're present to help in all the places where the flood waters have gone," Mujahid said.

Lashkar-e-Taiba was banned in Pakistan in 2002, after which the group used the name Jamaat-ud-Dawa, though it claims to be unrelated to Lashkar-e-Taiba.

JuD has a legally ambiguous status in Pakistan. After the UN proscribed the group in late 2008, the Pakistani government announced that it outlawed the organization, but when the group challenged this in the courts, judges ruled that no legal ban had been issued by the government.

Many Pakistani experts said that Lashkar-e-Taiba is the militant group that has the closest relationship to Pakistan's shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency.

JuD also was active in the aid effort after the massive 2005 earthquake in northern Pakistan, even winning international praise for its work, and also in caring for those displaced from the Swat valley last year when the army mounted an operation to recapture the area from the Taliban.