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US Toughens Stance Against Kashmiri Militant Groups - 2001-12-26


The Bush administration has officially designated as foreign terrorist organizations the two Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant factions being blamed by India for the December 13 attack on its parliament. The groups will face U.S. financial and travel sanctions.

The two groups, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, had already been blacklisted under separate actions by the Bush administration.

But the formal terrorist designation, announced by Secretary of State Colin Powell, would increase the potential U.S. sanctions, and add to the already considerable pressure on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to move against them.

In a written statement, Mr. Powell said the two groups, while claiming to be supporting the Kashmiri people, have conducted "numerous" terrorist attacks in India and Pakistan.

He called the December 13 assault on the Indian parliament and other attacks blamed on the groups "horrific" and said they "clearly show" their intent to assault democracy, undermine South Asian peace and stability, and destroy India-Pakistan relations.

The administration action makes it illegal for American citizens to provide financial or other support to the two groups, requires U.S. banks to freeze their assets, and allows U.S. authorities to deny visas to their members.

Mr. Powell called the moves an "important step" in the U.S. war on terrorism, and said he looks forward to working with both India and Pakistan to "shut these groups down."

In its annual report on terrorism earlier this year, the State Department criticized Pakistan for allowing, militants linked to attacks on civilians in Indian-held Kashmir to operate freely, and it cited both Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed as groups of concern to the United States.

An official who spoke to reporters here said the United States has no reason to dispute India's contention they were behind the parliament attack, which left 14 people dead including five gunmen who staged the assault.

He also said a conflict between the two South Asian powers over the issue would benefit no one. Secretary Powell has made repeated telephone calls to top officials of both sides in recent days in an effort to defuse tensions.

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