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Pakistan charity says US terror label an Indian plot

Written by: Staff

ISLAMABAD, May 9 (Reuters) The founder of one of the most feared militant groups fighting in Kashmir today accused the United States of pandering to India and being anti-Islam by branding the charity he now runs as a terrorist organisation.

''All this is being done at the behest of India,'' Hafiz Mohammad Saeed told Reuters in his first interview since the US State Department outlawed the Jamaat-ud-Dawa charity and one of its affiliates earlier this month.

''This decision is part of the anti-Islam attitude of America.

Our only sin is that we are Muslims,'' said Saeed, a firebrand orator who once taught Islamic studies at an engineering university in Lahore.

The United States and India have seen ties warm over the past four years and Saeed said the US ban was a goodwill gesture to India. New Delhi accuses Pakistan of arming militants fighting its rule over nearly half of Kashmir.

He insisted he had severed his links with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the jihadi militant group he set up in 1989 to fight Indian rule in Kashmir.

Pakistan banned Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2002 after the United Nations put it on a list of groups associated with al Qaeda.

Anticipating the ban, Saeed resigned from Lashkar, one of the groups blamed for an attack on India's parliament in December 2001, and became head of Jamaat.

The United States says Jamaat-ud-Dawa is just a front. Action would have been taken far sooner, according to Western sources, but establishing a legally watertight paper-trail between Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Lashkar-e-Taiba was painstaking work.

Listing Jamaat-ud-Dawa means freezing its assets in the United States -- effectively a symbolic but necessary first step.

Even if it had any money in the United States, the charity, which is believed to raise most of its cash from the Gulf and mosques in Pakistan's central Punjab province, could easily have shifted its funds before the United States was ready to act.


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