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Pakistan Court Jails Suspected Mumbai Attack Leader

FILE - Police officers escort Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, center, the main suspect of the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, after his court appearance in Islamabad, Pakistan, Jan. 1, 2015.

An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has sentenced a suspected radical Islamist leader to five years in jail in a terror financing case.

The special court in the eastern city of Lahore convicted Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, an alleged planner of the 2008 terror attacks in India, of running a medical facility to raise funds for financing terrorism.

The anti-terrorism department in Pakistan’s Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital, released the details of the ruling Friday. It said Lakhvi, who was taken into custody only last week, was fined $622 by the court.

Lakhvi is allegedly the chief of operations of the proscribed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group that India and the United States both accuse of plotting the 2008 Mumbai terror strikes. The violence killed 166 people, including Americans.

FILE - Flames gush out of The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, Nov. 27, 2008.
FILE - Flames gush out of The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai, Nov. 27, 2008.

The suspected militant commander was arrested by Pakistani authorities immediately after the Mumbai attacks but freed in 2015 on bail.

New Delhi has long pressed Islamabad to bring Lakhvi to trial for his role in the carnage.

Pakistani officials, however, insist no “concrete” evidence against the man has been provided by India to link him to the Mumbai attacks.

Washington welcomed Lakhvi’s arrest last week as an “important step in holding him responsible for his role in supporting terrorism and its financing.”

“We will follow his prosecution & sentencing closely & urge that he be held accountable for his involvement in the Mumbai attacks,” the U.S. State Department tweeted on January 5.

Lakhvi is also on the United Nations Security Council’s list of designated global terrorists.

Last year, a Pakistani court sentenced to jail the founder of LeT, Hafiz Saeed, who India alleges masterminded the Mumbai attack. But Saeed’s conviction came in another case.

Pressure from FATF

Indian officials reportedly have linked Lakhvi’s arrest and subsequent conviction to pressure on Pakistan from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

The Paris-based monitoring group is due to meet next month to review Pakistan’s anti-terror and anti-money laundering measures.

The FATF, at its meeting late last October, gave Islamabad until February 2021 to deliver on its remaining comments outlined in a 27-point action plan to curb money laundering and funding sources to terrorist groups.

The global task force at the time acknowledged that Pakistan had completed actions on 21 points but retained the country on its “increased monitoring list, the so-called gray list.”

The list designates nations that have weak mechanisms to counter the financing of terrorism but agree to work with the FATF to address their deficiencies. Pakistani officials say they have met all the requirements and hope the country will be removed from FATF’s gray list at the upcoming meeting.