The United States has announced a $10 million reward for Pakistan-based Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who is alleged by India to have conceived and choreographed the November, 2008 terrorist strikes in Mumbai that claimed the lives of 164 people and injured hundreds more.
Saeed is head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa and founder of terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, but is believed by some to have abandoned the leadership of the latter organization after being detained following an attack on the Indian parliament that took place in December 2001. However, the United Nations has described Jamaat-ud-Dawa as simply a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Saeed was released from house arrest in 2009 and is a free man in Pakistan. The size of the newly announced bounty reflects his perceived importance – the United States is only offering a $10 million reward for three others allegedly involved in terrorism (al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri tops the list, with a bounty of $25 million.)
But Saeed himself has suggested that those looking for him won’t have to try very hard to find him.
“I am here, I am visible. America should give that reward money to me,” he told reporters on learning of the bounty. “I will be in Lahore tomorrow. America can contact me whenever it wants to.”
Indeed, Saeed has been highly visible for a wanted suspected terrorist and apparently craves publicity, holding press conferences and offering fiery sermons during Friday prayers – a schedule he hasn’t changed despite LeT having been banned in 2002 in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Regardless, the news will have pleased the Indian government, which has long complained about the freedom of movement afforded Saeed in Pakistan.
The Pakistan government, meanwhile, has reportedly stepped up security for Saeed at a time of extremely strained ties between Islamabad and Washington. The bounty announcement comes a week after revelations by Osama bin Laden’s widow, Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, that he had roamed Pakistan for nine years.
The claims by Sadah, if accurate, reveal “the extent of bin Laden’s travels in Pakistan before his six-year-long stay in Abbottabad,” the Washington Post reported. “She said that starting in 2002, she lived with him in the country’s northwest, including in the Swat Valley and Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. She said they also lived for more than two years in a village in the Haripur district, 20 miles from Abbottabad.”
Dawood Ibrahim, another outspoken militant, was effectively silenced after the United States decided to designate him “global terrorist” in 2003, and Washington will undoubtedly hope that the bounty on Saeed will have a similar effect.