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U.S. concerned over release of Hafiz Saeed

27 November 2017

India on Friday warned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed to be prepared for a "resounding response" as he pledged to continue "jihad" in Jammu and Kashmir after a Pakistani court ended his 10 months of house arrest.

The US and the United Nations classify Saeed's JuD as a terrorist group and it is alleged to be a front organization for LeT, whose attack on Mumbai led to the death of 166 Indians and foreigners.

Describing the release of Hafiz Saeed as a step in the wrong direction, the United States said Pakistan now has an opportunity to "demonstrate its seriousness" in the fight against terrorism by "arresting and charging" the 26/11 mastermind for his crimes.

The JuD chief, who has a $10 million United States bounty on his head, was freed earlier in the day from 11 months of house arrest by the Lahore High Court, which said there was no evidence to hold him.

Late on Thursday night, Pakistan formally released Hafiz Saeed and withdrew the jail staff from his Johar Town residence in Lahore. The White House is calling the release of a U.S. -wanted militant by Pakistan a "step in the wrong direction" for U.S. -Pakistan relations and says a refusal to re-arrest him would have serious repercussions for bilateral ties and Pakistan's reputation.

The Punjab Home Department was against the release of Hafiz Saeed.

Reminding Islamabad that the USA had specially designated Saeed as a "global terrorist" way back in May 2008, Nauert also pointed out that the LeT chief was separately designated by the United Nations in December the same year following the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

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According to the AP, Raveesh Kumar, a spokesman for India's External Affairs Ministry, said Saeed's release "confirms once again the lack of seriousness on the part of Pakistani government in bringing to justice perpetrators of heinous acts of terrorism". Saeed carries a bounty of $10 million announced by the U.S. for his role in terror activities. In 2010, he told The Independent: "They make me out to be the biggest and most evil terrorist".

Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an Islamic charity run by Saeed, said his release was evidence of his innocence.

Hundreds of his supporters had gathered outside his house and showered rose petals on Saeed as he came out on Friday morning.

Saeed has repeatedly denied involvement but had previously been detained twice briefly following the attacks. He said Mr Sharif had committed "treason" by seeking friendship with India and ignoring the "Kashmir cause" while delivering a sermon at the JuD headquarters in Lahore.

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The campaign appeared to produce some success this year when Pakistani security forces assisted with the release of a Taliban-held US-Canadian family after five years in captivity.

U.S. concerned over release of Hafiz Saeed