The United States Department of the Treasury today said that it had designated two Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) leaders and founding members, Zafar Iqbal and Hafiz Abdul Salam Bhuttavi, implying an eventual freeze on all U.S.-based assets in their name and a ban on an U.S. entities from engaging with them in any material transactions.
“Zafar Iqbal and Hafiz Abdul Salam Bhuttavi are two of LET's most significant leaders,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen adding that over the past 20 years, they had been responsible for fundraising, recruitment, and indoctrination of LET operatives.
In a statement the Treasury took the relatively rare step of clearly linking LET to al-Qaeda. It said, “LET is a Pakistan-based terrorist group with links to the al-Qa’ida network and its former leader Osama bin Laden that is responsible for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks and July 2006 Mumbai train bombings.”
The terror outfit itself was designated by the U.S and named a Foreign Terrorist Organisation in December 2001, and was added to the UN 1267 list in May 2005. Further Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an ostensible charity group that is the de facto front of LET was also designated by the U.S. “as an alias of LET... and was added to the UN 1267... list as an alias of LET in December 2008.”
Outlining some of the illicit activities of the designated individuals the Treasury said that Iqbal was a senior leader and co-founder of LET and was once considered LET second-in-command and official responsible for the group’s finances and fundraising activities as of late 2010.
Further Iqbal was said to have played a key role as the director of LET’s education during 2003-2010. In that capacity, the Treasury explained, Iqbal “was involved in recruiting activities on behalf of the group and has prepared the curricula for schools run by LET in Pakistan.”
Linking Iqbal to the a mastermind of the Mumbai attacks beyond a shadow of doubt U.S. officials also said that in 1989 or 1990, Iqbal traveled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with LET emir Hafiz Muhammad Saeed to request financial support from Osama bin Laden.
Similarly Bhuttavi was said to have served as the “acting emir” of LET on at least two occasions, including when Saeed was detained in the days after the Mumbai attacks and held until June 2009. “Bhuttavi handled the group’s day-to-day functions during this period,” according to an official statement, which added that he further “helped prepare the operatives for the November
2008 Mumbai attacks by delivering lectures on the merits of martyrdom... and is responsible for LET’s madrassah network [and] organisational base in Lahore, Pakistan.”