Washington: The decision to announce a USD 10 million bounty on Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed is primarily due to his key role in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, the US said on Wednesday, asserting that Washington wants to see him brought to justice.

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"It (bounty) has everything to do with Mumbai and his brazen flouting of the justice system," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters here.

"It (bounty) is because we want to see him brought to justice," she asserted, and referred to the fact that Hafiz Saeed has been charged in India.

She rejected a statement of Saeed in a television interview that the US announced the bounty on his head because he is opposing the reopening of the crucial NATO supply route to Afghanistan, which was shut down by Pakistan on November last year when 24 of its soldiers were killed in a NATO cross border fire.

Nuland also refuted the Pakistani claims that they have not been informed about it. "We have been in communication with Pakistan on this issue," she said at her daily news conference.

Bounty on Hafiz Saeed

Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Wednesday claimed in Islamabad that his country had not received any "official communication" from the US about the USD 10 million bounty offered for Saeed. The bounty was announced by US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Windy Sherman, during her trip to India, a day earlier.

Nuland said the bounty on Saeed was approved by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself after all the necessary process was completed spread over past several months.

"This effort to arrange rewards for trust bounty for Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and also for Abdul Rehman Makki has been in the works for quite a number of months. These things are somewhat complicated to work through all of the details. So the announcements were only able to be posted when the process was complete, but we've been working on this for some time," the spokesperson underlined.

Giving details of the process, Nuland said there is a review process to determine in the first instance whether offering a bounty of this kind in this case, its USD 10 million for Saeed, USD 2 million for Makki is likely to lead to any results in the case.

"So there has to be an intelligence evaluation. There has to be a policy evaluation. There has to be a discussion with Congress. This is a lot of money for the US taxpayer to put up, and so that process takes some time, things have to be correlated. There is an entire review process. There's an interagency rewards committee that has to look through this, and then the secretary has to approve it," she said.

US justifies the bounty


More than 160 innocent people, including six American nationals were killed in Mumbai in November 2008 in a massacre perpetrated by LeT terrorists who sneaked into the city from Pakistan through the sea route. Both India and the US have said Saeed was the mastermind of this terrorist incident.

In an apparent reference to Hafiz Saeed recent public appearances, Nuland said: "As you may know, one of these individuals has been appearing on television and has been quite brazen, so I think the sense has been over the last few months that this kind of a reward might hasten the judicial process."

Nuland said for a long time the US has been concerned that people who have killed Americans overseas are not being able to be brought to justice. "So, again, this is a case that's been going on for a long time. This is with regard to justice being served on people who have killed Americans, so that there's no impunity for them anywhere in the world," she said.

LeT a threat to the world

Earlier in the day, the State Department formally announced that it has authorized a reward of up to USD 10 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT) founder Saeed and a reward of up to USD 2 million for information leading to the location of LeT’s second in command, Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki. LeT was designated by the US Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on December 20, 2001.

Saeed participated in the planning of the 4-day-long terrorist assault on Mumbai in November 2008 that left 166 individuals dead, including six US citizens. Saeed and his organization continue to spread ideology advocating terrorism, as well as virulent rhetoric condemning the US, India, Israel, and other perceived enemies," the State Department said.

On December 10, 2008, Saeed was listed at the UN 1267/1989 al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee as an individual associated with the terrorist organization and thus subject to international sanctions. The US Defence department said LeT continues to plot attacks and poses a threat to the US and the region as well.

"The LeT, from the US perspective, is a very dangerous group that has mounted operations externally and continues to plot attacks. This is a very serious issue for us, and I think that's why you saw this announcement," said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

"We believe that this group remains a threat, remains a threat to people in the region and to us," Little told reporters at a Pentagon news conference when asked about the bounty announced by a senior US official in New Delhi.

(JPN/Agencies)