The United States has designated the Pakistan-based Muslim extremist group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi as a foreign terrorist organization. The State Department says the group was behind numerous acts of terror, including last year's kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
The designation, announced by Secretary of State Colin Powell, makes Lashkar-i-Jhangvi the 36th group to be formally listed as a Foreign Terrorism Organization under U.S. law.
It freezes any U.S. assets the group might have, makes it illegal for persons under U.S. jurisdiction to donate to or provide material support for the group, and denies U.S. visas to its representatives.
In a written statement, Mr. Powell said the Sunni Muslim group is responsible for "numerous" deadly attacks, including bus and church bombings. He said its involvement in the kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl has been confirmed, and that it claimed responsibility for killing four U.S. oil workers in Karachi in 1997.
The announcement came a day after Mr. Powell held talks with Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, who assured the Bush administration of his two-month-old government's "abiding" commitment to support the U.S.-led war on terrorism.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Lashkar-i-Jhangvi's connections with the al-Qaida terror organization in Afghanistan have been corroborated by various sources, and that the United States looks forward to working with Pakistani authorities to try to shut it down.
"They have ties to al-Qaida. They have ties to the Taleban. In addition to receiving sanctuary in Afghanistan from the Taleban for their activities in Pakistan, the group's members fought alongside Taleban fighters," he said. "Pakistani investigators in 2002 revealed that al-Qaida has been involved with the training of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and that the group's fighters also fought alongside the Taleban against the Northern Alliance. In the words of the Pakistani interior minister, they have been sleeping and eating together, receiving training together and fighting against the Northern Alliance together in Afghanistan."
The Pakistani government has also listed Lashkar-i-Jhangvi as a terrorist group. It is said to have been involved in a 1999 plot to assassinate then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Mr. Boucher says it was also involved in the massive car-bombing outside a Karachi hotel last May that killed 15 people, including 11 French technicians working with the Pakistani navy.