WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department took aim Thursday at an anti-Indian terror group behind the Mumbai attacks and a second group trying to drive India out of Kashmir, just before President Barack Obama's upcoming Indian visit.
Treasury announced measures to seize or freeze the assets of money men from two terrorist groups, Pakistan-based Lashkar-e Taiba and the Kashmir-separatist movement Jaish-e Mohammed.
Lashkar-e Taiba is blamed for the four-day shooting and bombing rampage through India's financial capital that killed 166 people, including six Americans. The group is also blamed for deadly train bombings in Mumbai in 2006.
Jaish-e Mohammed, thought to be Pakistan's largest militant group, has targeted Indian troops and government offices in an effort to expel India from Indian-controlled portions of Jammu and Kashmir. The territories are in a region long disputed between India and Pakistan.
"LET and JEM have proven both their willingness and ability to execute attacks against innocent civilians," said Stuart Levey, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. He called Treasury's action an important step toward incapacitating these deadly organizations.
The Treasury move highlights U.S. cooperation with India on counterterrorism in advance of Obama's four-day visit there.
Obama will spend the first night at a luxury Indian hotel that was targeted during the 2008 Mumbai incident. He will discuss the attacks, the White House said last week. The 107-year-old Taj Mahal hotel reopened for business in August, two years after being partly burned down in the LET rampage.
Treasury singled out a man it calls a key operational commander of the 2008 Mumbai incident, Azam Cheema, who officials say helped train operatives for the attacks. In a statement Thursday, Treasury also called Cheema the "mastermind" behind the earlier July 2006 Mumbai train bombings — a series of seven attacks which killed an estimated 160 people.
Treasury also acted against Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, head of LET's political affairs.
U.S. officials are taking similar action against Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi, the leader and founder of the second group, JEM. The National Counterterrorism Center's official site says JEM aims "to unite Kashmir with Pakistan and to expel foreign troops from Afghanistan," and that it has "openly declared war against the United States."
After the group was banned by Pakistan, it started funneling funds through a charity organization called al Rehmat Trust, which Treasury calls a front for its operations, providing support for militant activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan and foreign fighters operating in both countries.
The action prohibits Americans from doing business with the targeted men and freezes any of their assets under U.S. jurisdiction.