Originally Published 2011-05-04 00:00:00 Published on May 04, 2011
Lashkar-e-Tayyeba is more than likely to spearhead a reprisal attack to avenge the killing of its mentor and patron, al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. The group will extend its focus to western targets, specially the US, in the days ahead.
LeT likely to target US, West
Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT), the global terrorist group based in Pakistan, is more than likely to spearhead a reprisal attack to avenge the killing of its mentor and patron, al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. The group, involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack and several other bombings and attacks in India and Afghanistan, will extend its focus to western targets, specially the US, in the days ahead.

On Tuesday, a day after Laden was killed in Abbottabad, LeT organised funeral prayers in absentia for Laden in Quetta, Karachi and Lahore on Tuesday (May 4). In Lahore, where the group operates out of a $10 million-plus headquarters, the terrorist mastermind, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed hailed him as a martyr and made a veiled threat that his death would not go in vain.

Saeed and his terrorist group owe their existence, in a way, to Osama bin Laden who asked one of his mujahideen commanders in Afghanistan to help set up two training camps for recruits from Pakistan in Kunar and Pakhtia provinces. These camps were run by Laden's confidante, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a Wahhabi Pashtun warlord. One of the recruits who trained at these camps and later became a commander was Zaki-ur Rahman Lakhvi, one of the prime accused in the Mumbai attacks. During the Afghan Jihad, Saeed preached the virtues of jihad and motivated the recruits at these training camps.

On several occasions, Saeed has admitted meeting Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and being influenced by him and his ideology. In fact, Saeed had developed a deep personal relationship with Laden during the Afghan Jihad days. Both Saeed and Osama bin Laden shared a common pursuit of Wahhabi ideology propagated by Saudi scholars in Riyadh where both had, at different times, attended religious courses.

Two instances corroborate the relationship between Hafiz Saeed and Osama. After the Afghan Jihad, when Saeed returned to Pakistan and was keen on setting up a jihadi group inside Pakistan, it was Osama who donated, through another of his commander and confidante, Abdur Rahman Sareehi, Rs 10 million to buy the 200-acre plot to construct the LeT headquarters at Muridke near Lahore. Sareehi was Lakhvi's brother-in-law. For several years, Osama bin Laden and his associated charity organisations remained crucial funding sources for LeT's growth and expansion as a terrorist group inside Pakistan.

Second instance was Osama bin Laden as one of the special invitees to the annual congregations organised by LeT in Lahore. Most often, Osama's recorded speech would be broadcast to the audience. One few occasions, Osama spoke to the audience through phone.

These deep and abiding roots became once again visible when the US began bombing the al Qaeda and Taliban hideouts in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks. Many of the top al Qaeda leaders were kept in safe houses run by LeT. Abu Zubeyadah, a senior al Qaeda commander, was caught from a LeT safe house in Faisalabad in 2002. In fact, various Guantanamo detainees have told investigators about LeT-run safe houses for al Qaeda in different parts of Pakistan. These safe houses were known as Issa Safe Houses. During one of the raids in 2002, over 30 al Qaeda activists were arrested from these houses in Faisalabad.

Although LeT had been keeping a visible distance from al Qaeda, it has facilitated training and fund raising for the global terrorist group over the last several years. Many of LeT's traditional fund raisers and sources have been used by al Qaeda to draw funds for its own activities. Several al Qaeda recruits had graduated through LeT training camps in PoK, Punjab and Khyer Pakhtunwa.

Since the Mumbai attack in November 2008, the terrorist group has managed to expand its training activities in PoK. Several hundred recruits, including several foreigners, have undergone different levels of training at its new training campus at Dulai near Muzaffarabad, the capital city of PoK. With enormous funds at its disposal, a network of agents and sympathisers in over 30 countries, and the patronage it enjoys from Pakistan Army and ISI, LeT is today the only terrorist group capable of fulfilling Osama bin Laden's violent global agenda.

Wilson John is Senior Fellow and Vice President, Observer Research Foundation.

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