US rejects Pakistan militant's offer of storm aid
WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
Hafiz Saeed, head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa organisation and founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba. Reuters PhotoThe United States yesterday rejected an offer of help for Americans hit by superstorm Sandy from the founder of a Pakistan-based Islamist group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant outfit who has a $10 million US reward on his head, said his charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) was ready to help to those affected by the storm.
Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner recalled that Saeed is wanted for the 2008 attacks which killed 166 people, including six Americans.
The LeT has also been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department.
"We have great respect obviously for the Islamic tradition of social assistance to those who are in need, no matter where they might be," Toner told journalists. But "this particular offer strikes us as very hollow." Sandy hammered the eastern United States early Tuesday, flooding much of New York City, causing a trail of damage across several states and leaving more than 50 people dead.
Saeed, who is now head of JuD, said in a statement his organization was ready to offer every possible help "volunteers, doctors, food, medicines and other relief items on humanitarian grounds if the US government allows us." "America may have any opinion about us, it may fix bounties on our heads but as followers of the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, we feel it is our Islamic duty to help Americans trapped in a catastrophe." JuD is seen as a front for LeT, and in April the United States offered $10 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Saeed, who lives openly in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore.
Saeed's charity has long denied terror accusations and is known in Pakistan for its relief work after the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 floods.
He was put under house arrest a month after the Mumbai attacks, but was later released after Pakistani courts ruled there was insufficient proof to hold him.