Pakistan on Wednesday arrested Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack that killed 166 people.
An FIR against Saeed, who has been declared a global terrorist by the U.S. and the UN, and four others — Abdul Ghaffar, Hafiz Masood, Ameer Hamza and Malik Zafar Iqbal — was registered at the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) police station in Gujranwala, Punjab, on July 1 on charges of terror financing.
According to a statement from the CTD Punjab spokesperson, Saeed “has been sent to prison on judicial remand... He will face trial in the ATC [Anti-terrorism Court] Gujranwala in the said case.”
A spokesman for Saeed’s group, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a wing of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, confirmed the arrest to the news agency AFP.
Lahore bureau chief of Geo News Raees Ansari said Saeed was arrested on his way from Lahore to a court in Gujranwala to seek anticipatory bail.
“Saeed got interim bail from an anti-terrorism court in Lahore earlier this week. The CTD, anticipating another interim bail — which is a norm in such cases — arrested him before he could reach the Gujranwala ATC,” said Mr. Ansari.
Foreign policy analyst Hassan Akbar said the JuD leader’s arrest has been announced as part of renewed efforts under the “national action plan” to clamp down on terror financing.
“Saeed has previously used the courts effectively to gain bail. We expect that enough evidence will be provided by law enforcement agencies to ensure that any bail application is rejected by the High Court,” Mr. Akbar told The Hindu .
He believes that Saeed’s arrest will help Pakistan make a strong case to avoid blacklisting by the FATF (Financial Action Task Force, an anti-money-laundering monitor based in Paris) in October.
“Equally significant, the action can help generate forward momentum towards de-escalation ahead of the Kartarpur opening later this year, renewing hopes that the idea of a dialogue between India and Pakistan can be germinated in the months to come,” he said.
The arrest comes a few days before Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s maiden U.S. visit.
After Saeed was arrested on Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted: “After a ten year search, the so-called “mastermind” of the Mumbai Terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Great pressure has been exerted over the last two years to find him!”