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Lashkar guards for jailed 26/11 commander

Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi

Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi  

Fresh evidence has emerged that top 26/11 suspect Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi continues to be provided security by the Lashkar-e-Taiba though he is incarcerated inside the maximum-security Adiala jail in Rawalpindi.

In a statement announcing sanctions against eight key Lashkar operatives on Thursday, the United States Treasury Department said Sajid Mir, the terrorist group’s commander for transcontinental operations, had been made “responsible for Lakhvi’s security as of 2010.” Lakhvi, seniormost Lashkar operative held by Pakistan for the 26/11 attacks, has been in prison since December 7, 2008, and is being tried on charges of having masterminded the plot.

The statement does not detail precisely what kind of security Mir is charged with providing his superior, but an Indian intelligence official based in New Delhi said he was responsible for ensuring secure communications and screening visitors to deter assassination plots.

Diplomatic sources in Washington, DC, declined to offer further detail on the Treasury Department’s finding, but an official told The Hindu that the reference to Lakhvi’s security “was well considered and based on evidence.”

Last year, investigative online journal ProPublica reported that Pakistan’s Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had declined to confiscate Lakhvi’s cellphone, allowing the Lashkar commander to coordinate the group’s operations from inside the Adiala jail. The journal said “Gen. Kayaniresponded that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, had told prison authorities to better control Lakhvi’s access to the outside world.”

However, Gen. Kayani “rejected a U.S. request that authorities take away the cellphone Lakhvi was using in jail, according to the memo to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the National Security Council.”

New Delhi-based Indian intelligence officials said they had evidence of Lakhvi still continuing to use a cellphone in the prison. In addition, Lashkar personnel stood outside the jail, screening visitors.

Lashkar’s “uncle”

Indian officials who visited Pakistan earlier this year, Home Ministry sources said, were told authorities there were confident that there was enough evidence to convict Lakhvi. Pakistani authorities have not, however, so far conducted forensic tests that would establish that he was one of several Lashkar commanders who guided the 26/11 attackers from a control room in Karachi, using voice-over-internet protocol connections.

Born on December 30, 1960, Lakhvi — sometimes referred to by those he has trained as “uncle” — has long served as the Lashkar’s overall military chief and is a member of its powerful general council. He is alleged to have directed operations targeting the Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir, and routed dozens of Lashkar operatives to Chechnya, Bosnia and Iraq.

In a speech at the Lashkar’s headquarters at Muridke in 1999, Lakhvi claimed credit for several suicide attacks in Kashmir, and threatened to stage one in New Delhi “to teach India a lesson.”

Sajid Mir, Lakhvi’s one-time secretary, was responsible for recruiting western nationals to the Lashkar — the most famous among them being David Headley, Pakistani-American jihadist, who carried out the reconnaissance operation which guided the 26/11 assault team.

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