WASHINGTON: The United States said Wednesday it wanted the founder of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba to be prosecuted and jailed after he openly goadedWashington with a press conference in Pakistan.
Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the organization accused of masterminding the 2008 siege of Mumbai that killed 166 people, dared the United States to contact him after Washington announced a $10 million reward for information on him.
“He’s free to do that, unfortunately, up to this moment. But we hope to put him behind bars,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters when asked about Saeed’s public appearance.
Toner sought to clarify the US reward for Saeed, saying that Washington was offering money not for his capture but for information that would allow his prosecution in a court in the United States or elsewhere.
“We all know where he is, you know, every journalist in Pakistan and in the region knows how to find him, but we’re looking for information that can be usable to convict him in a court of law,” Toner said.
He denied that the United States was trying to make new demands of authorities in Pakistan, which is completing a review aimed at resetting relations with Washington after months of crisis between the war partners.
“It's not to put pressure on any one government. But we wanted to be able to provide Pakistan with the tools that they need to prosecute this individual,” Toner said.
Saeed convened his press conference at a hotel close to the Pakistani army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi and said: “If the United States wants to contact me, I am present, they can contact me.
“I am also ready to face any American court, or wherever there is proof against me,” he told reporters.
Relations between the two countries nosedived last year when theUnited Statesdiscovered and killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, home toPakistan’s elite military academy.
Pakistan shut off Nato supply routes into Afghanistan, the key area of cooperation since the September 11, 2001 attacks, after air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the border in November.