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U.N. sanction on Lashkar operative a blow to Pakistan

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: Attempts by Pakistan to link the Mumbai terrorist attack of November 2008 to the earlier explosion on board the Samjhauta Express are likely to flounder in the face of the United Nations Security Council’s decision to sanction a key Lashkar-e-Taiba operative for his role in the 2007 train bombing.

For the past year, Indian investigators, probing the deadly attack on the Lahore-bound train in which 68 people, mostly Pakistanis, were killed have been exploring various theories, including the involvement of the Lashkar.

The unravelling of a Hindutva terrorist cell following investigations into the Malegaon bombings generated leads which also prompted some speculation about their possible role in the Samjhauta incident.

Evidence

Though the trail of evidence from Panipat and Indore eventually ran cold, external intelligence agencies — presumably from the United States — clearly had information the Indian side didn’t. And they seem to have found the fingerprints of the LeT and the Al-Qaeda all over the wrecked train.

On June 29, the 1267 committee of the UNSC — so named after the resolution mandating sanctions on the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban — slapped an assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo on Karachi-based businessman Arif Qasmani, whom it described as the “chief coordinator” for the Lashkar’s “dealings with outside organisations” and a provider of “significant support for LeT terrorist operations.”

In a press release, the 1267 committee noted: “Qasmani has worked with LeT to facilitate terrorist attacks, to include the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai, India, and the February 2007 Samjota (sic) Express bombing in Panipat, India. Qasmani utilised money that he received from Dawood Ibrahim, an Indian crime figure and terrorist supporter, to facilitate the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai, India. Qasmani also conducted fundraising activities on behalf of LeT in late 2005. Arif Qasmani has also provided financial and other support to Al Qaeda.”

The U.N. said that in return for his support, “Al Qaeda provided Qasmani with operatives to support the July 2006 train bombing in Mumbai, India, and the February 2007 Samjota Express bombing in Panipat, India.”

The U.N. citation of Qasmani and LeT spokesman Yahya Mujahid, which was followed on Thursday by a separate ban imposed on the duo by the U.S. Treasury Department, took Indian officials by surprise.

Senior officials told The Hindu it was evident the U.S. had access to information that it had not yet shared with India.

In the exchange of dossiers between India and Pakistan following the terrorist attack in Mumbai, Islamabad had sought to ‘balance’ the optics of being asked to act against the LeT by seeking details from New Delhi on the progress of investigations in the Samjhauta case.

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