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Pakistan Bans Islamic Charity Linked to Mumbai Attack Plot

Pakistan has banned a well-known Islamic charity implicated in the Mumbai terrorist attacks.  Pakistan's prime minister announced the move after meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte.

Pakistani officials say they have ordered provincial officials to begin closing down Jamaat ud Dawa offices and facilities, but it is unclear how far-reaching the crackdown will be.

The prominent Islamic charity claims to operate 172 schools, with more than 20,000 students in all major Pakistani cities. The group also says it runs six hospitals and more than 100 medical clinics.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani released a brief statement saying Pakistan would "fulfill its international obligations" under a U.N. resolution that calls for freezing assets, banning travel and stopping arms shipments to terrorist groups.

On Wednesday, the United Nations accused Jamaat ud Dawa of being a front for Lashkar e Taiba - the militant group blamed in the Mumbai attacks.  The world body also added four individuals to the banned list for links to LeT.

One of the four, Jamaat ud Dawa leader Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, told reporters the United Nations had hastily passed judgment on his organization.

He says we do not accept this judgment.  He says the United Nations did not bother to listen to Pakistan or to our party in this decision.

Saeed said the group will petition the United Nations to reconsider.

Jamaat ud Dawa describes itself as a conservative Islamic charity that focuses on serving needy Pakistanis.  It played a significant role in the massive relief efforts following Pakistan's devastating 2005 earthquake in Kashmir and more recently in the earthquake in Baluchistan.

But the group has also long been suspected of serving as a front for Lashkar e Taiba after it was banned by the Pakistani government in 2001.

During a news conference in Lahore, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed denied his group has any ties to the banned militant group.

He says we are a Pakistani group with offices in Pakistan.  He says Lashkar e Taiba is in Kashmir, but he says it has no office or facilities or anything like that in Pakistan.

U.S. officials describe Lashkar e Taiba as one of the largest and best trained terrorist groups fighting India in Kashmir.  In 2006, the United States declared Jamaat ud Dawa a front for the Lashkar e Taiba and listed it as a terrorist group - but the action had little effect on its activities in Pakistan.

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