ISLAMABAD – The United States has placed a small Pakistani political party on its list of foreign terrorist groups, calling it a front for the militants behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The U.S. State Department said Tuesday that the Milli Muslim League is a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant group founded by Hafiz Saeed, a Muslim cleric who lives freely in Pakistan and often addresses anti-India rallies. The U.S. has offered a $10 million reward for his capture, and the U.S. and U.N. consider Lashkar-e-Taiba a terrorist group.
Saeed has denied responsibility for the Mumbai attacks, which killed 168 people, and Pakistan says there is not enough evidence to arrest him.
Saeed's spokesman, Yahya Mujahid, said Wednesday that the cleric is not part of the Milli Muslim League or Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Tabish Qayyum, a spokesman for the party, said the U.S. has no right to intervene in Pakistan's "internal political matters." He said the party "condemns all kinds of violence, extremism and terrorism and aims to make Pakistani society more tolerant and progressive." He denied the allegations that the party was a front.
India's Ministry of External affairs welcomed the decision to add the party to the U.S. terror list.
There was no immediate comment from Pakistan's government, which recently began seizing assets from two charities run by Saeed. The Jamaat-ud-Dawa organization and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation are also alleged fronts for Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Saeed is known for publicly supporting militant groups fighting Indian rule in the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is split between Pakistan and India and claimed by both.
Associated Press Writer Muneez Naqvi contributed to this report from New Delhi, India