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An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan on Wednesday indicted Hafiz Saeed, the suspected planner of the 2008 attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai, along with his four senior aides on terror financing charges.
Saeed, the founder of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group and the head of its banned charity wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), has been designated as a global terrorist by the United States for his alleged role in the Mumbai strikes that killed more than 170 people.
The Islamist cleric was present in the court in the eastern city of Lahore when the charges against him and his partners were read. The court will conduct the next proceedings on Thursday.
Saeed and his associates rejected as baseless the prosecution’s charges that they were using JuD charities and trusts to raise funds to finance terrorism.
Saeed has also consistently denied his involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
Indian authorities accuse him and his LeT of planning and executing the carnage. The Islamist cleric maintains he had ended his association with LeT before it was outlawed by the Pakistani government in 2002.
Washington has placed both LeT and JuD on its list of global terrorist groups, offering $10 million for information that would help bring Saeed to justice.
Wednesday’s indictment comes ahead of a meeting of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in February to decide whether to blacklist Pakistan for not doing enough to curb money laundering and terror financing, as well as activities of groups such as LeT and JuD on its soil. The agency is leading the fight against the funding of terrorism and money laundering.
If Islamabad fails to deliver on commitments under an action plan agreed to with FATF, the agency could move Pakistan to its blacklist, fueling economic troubles for the country because it would make it extremely difficult for Pakistan to deal with global financial institutions and bring in much needed foreign investment.
Pakistan has long been accused of harboring militant groups plotting attacks in Afghanistan and India.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, however, has vowed not to allow anyone to use Pakistani soil against another country.
Authorities have recently intensified a crackdown on outlawed groups and taken control of JuD-run welfare hospitals as well as religious seminaries across the country.