US offers reward to strengthen investigation in 2008 Mumbai attack
The US has announced a fresh reward of up to USD 5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of any individual who was involved in the planning or facilitating the 2008 Mumbai attack, as it specifically asked Pakistan to uphold its obligations to implement the sanctions against those responsible for the act of terror.
The Trump administration announced the new reward (of over Rs 35 crore) on the 10th anniversary of the terror attack in which 10 Pakistan-based LeT terrorist went on a shooting rampage in India's financial hub killing 166 people, including six Americans.
"The US Department of State's Rewards for Justice (RFJ) Program is offering a reward of up to USD 5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of any individual who committed, conspired to commit, or aided or abetted in the execution of the 2008 Mumbai attack," the State Department said in a statement on Sunday.
"Key members of this heinous plot remain at large, and this investigation remains active and ongoing. This reward offer extends to any individual who bears responsibility for this act of terror," the RFJ said in a separate statement.
The move comes less than a fortnight after Vice President Mike Pence had a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Singapore, during which he is believed to have himself raised this issue and rued that even 10 years after the Mumbai terrorist attack its perpetrators have not been brought to justice.
Describing the Mumbai terror attack as a "barbarity", US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called upon Pakistan and other nations to uphold their UN Security Council obligations to implement sanctions against those responsible for the atrocity, including the LeT and its affiliates.
"It is an affront to the families of the victims that, after ten years, those who planned the Mumbai attack have still not been convicted for their involvement," Pompeo said in a statement.
"We call upon all countries, particularly Pakistan, to uphold their UN Security Council obligations to implement sanctions against the terrorists responsible for this atrocity, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and its affiliates," Pompeo said.
"The United States is committed to working with our international partners to identify and bring to justice those responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attack," it said.
In April 2012, the Department of State announced reward offers for information that brings to justice LeT founder Hafiz Saeed and Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki, another senior LeT leader.
Under this, Washington announced a USD 10 million bounty for information leading to Saeed's arrest and conviction but, despite periods of detention over the years, he has remained free in Pakistan.
In December 2001, the Department of State designated LeT as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. This designation plays a critical role in the fight against terrorism and is an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business, the State Department said.
In May 2005, the United Nations (UN) 1267 Sanctions Committee added LeT to the Consolidated UN Security Council Sanctions List.
The State Department said anyone with information on this incident can contact the RFJ office. Individuals may also contact the Regional Security Officer at the nearest US embassy or consulate. "All information will be kept strictly confidential," it said.
Since its inception in 1984, the RFJ programme has paid over USD 150 million to more than 100 people who provided actionable information that helped bring terrorists to justice or prevented acts of international terrorism worldwide.
Meanwhile, a senior Trump administration official has said that except for designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism, the United States is looking at all possible tools at its disposal to convince Islamabad that it is in its interest to crush terrorist groups.
"The focus of the discussions has not been on designating Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, rather how to use other tools at our disposal to convince Pakistan that it is in its interest to crack down on terrorist groups," the administration official told PTI.
"Pakistan has a stark choice: Cooperate and enjoy the benefits of a close relationship with the US and the rest of the world, or face international isolation if it chooses not to change its behaviour," the official said in response to a question.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, Trump administration officials say they are looking at ways through which they can convince Pakistan to change its behaviour.
(With inputs from agencies.)