Lashkar-e-Taiba

Formed1990
DisbandedGroup is active.
Last AttackFebruary 13, 2010: Indian authorities speculate that LeT may have contributed surveillance and planning for the bombing of a German bakery in Pune. (9 killed). [1]
UpdatedJanuary 30, 2016

Narrative Summary

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), also known as Army of the Pure or Army of the Righteous, is an Islamic militant organization based in Pakistan.  It was founded in 1990 by Hafiz Mohammed Saeed as the military wing of Pakistani Islamist organization Markaz-ad-Dawa-wal-Irshad (MDI), which promotes the Ahl-e-Hadith (AeH) interpretation of Islam, until it ostensibly split from the group in 2002. [2] LeT was first active in the fight against the Soviet presence in Afghanistan but changed its focus to the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir when the state rebelled against Indian control in the early 1990s. LeT has reportedly been supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) since the early 1990s as one of many paramilitary groups used by Pakistan as proxy forces to create instability in India. [3]  LeT sees the fight against Indian control over Jammu and Kashmir as part of a global struggle against the oppression of Muslims, and ultimately seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Indian subcontinent. [4]

The first known LeT operation in India was the ambush of a small group of Indian Air Force personnel in 1990.  The group proved its strength in 1993 in a successful attack on a heavily guarded Indian army base in Poonch. [5]  Until the mid 1990’s, LeT exclusively targeted Indian military presence in Jammu and Kashmir.  On January 5, 1996, however, the group gained notoriety for the first of many massacres targeting minorities in Kashmir, killing 16 Hindus in Barshalla, Doda . [6] The most notable massacre, known as the Chattisinghpora attack, occurred on March 20, 2000, when LeT terrorists killed 35 Sikhs in Anantnag on the eve of President Bill Clinton’s official state visit to India. [7]  

Despite LeT’s operational focus on Jammu and Kashmir, eliminating Indian power in the entire region has always been the larger goal. Hafez Saeed exploited Hindu-Muslim tensions to recruit Indian Muslims to carry out LeT attacks across India. [8]  One of the first of these attacks was the Red Fort attack in New Delhi on December 22, 2000. The attack is considered symbolic, as the Red Fort was the palace of the last Muslim rulers of the Indian sub-continent. [9] Although not one of LeT’s most destructive attacks, it established the group as a militant threat to India.

On December 13, 2001, gunmen attacked India’s parliament, killing seven. Although LeT denied responsibility, the attack sparked renewed confrontation between India and Pakistan and led to the United States listing LeT an official Foreign Terrorist Organization.  [10] Pakistan followed suit shortly after and formally banned the group on January 13, 2002. In response, Hafez Saeed announced a split between LeT and MDI, and that he was no longer affiliated with LeT. MDI changed its name to Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), but the split and rebranding were superficial. JuD and  LeT continued to operate together throughout Pakistan, even retaining most of their joint offices, after the announced split.  FBI reports indicate overlap between the two groups as late as 2009. [11] [12]

While violence in Kashmir peaked in the mid-2000s and has since decreased, LeT has remained active.  The group’s most recent large-scale attack took place in Mumbai in November 2008, known as the 26/11 attacks.  The attack employed common LeT tactics but on a much larger scale than any previous incident.  Ten attackers killed 166 people over 60 hours at five landmarks and establishments popular with foreigners across the city.  The focus on Westerners- Jews and Israelis in particular- in this attack evidenced LeT’s global agenda. Hafez Saeed once again denied his organization was responsible for the attack, but investigations and intelligence confirmed that it was an LeT operation.  Testimony of a surviving attacker and another arrested LeT operative underscored the depth of Pakistani ISI involvement in both the 26/11 attacks as well as general LeT operations. [13]

In addition to direct attacks, LeT supports proxy Islamist groups inside India with training, weapons, and funding. The Indian Mujahideen (IM), founded by Mohammed Sadiq Israr Sheikh, is LeT’s primary ally in the country. [14] Analysts disagree on the degree of linkage between LeT and IM, with some arguing the latter is an independent organization, and some suggesting it is a direct product of LeT and ISI cooperation, established when Pakistan, reduced its support for armed operations in Kashmir under international pressure, but redirected that support to groups operating inside India. [15] [16] 

Since 2003, it has often been difficult for investigators to determine whether an attack was a LeT operation supported by IM or an IM operation supported by LeT. In November 2007, however, IM declared its presence as an independent organization seeking to revenge violence against Indian Muslims with attack in the Indian province of Uttar Pradesh.  Then in February 2010, IM and LeT launched a joint attack deliberately targeting foreigners at a German Bakery in Pune.  This attack was the start of renewed operational cooperation between the groups and they have since killed more than 50 people in India. [17] [18]

LeT has significant ties to the global militant Islamist organizations. LeT has assisted with training, transport, and protection many notable Al Qaeda (AQ) figures including Ramzi Yusuf, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. [19] Several Pakistani raids of LeT safe houses and schools have led to the arrest of AQ and AQ-affiliated operatives.  Many high-profile militants have reportedly trained with LeT including Richard Reid, the terrorist who attempted to detonate his shoes on an airplane, and two of the 2005 London subway bombers. [20]

Despite a focus on India for most of its existence, LeT has become increasingly involved in the fight against NATO and the United States in Afghanistan. At first, these attacks were in support of the Afghan Taliban. Beginning in 2008, however, attacks in Afghanistan have targeted Indian interests in the country, demonstrating Pakistan’s alledged use of LeT as a proxy force. [21] [22]

Lashkar-e-Taiba continues to be loyal to the Pakistani state but government support for the group and other proxy militant groups, is dwindling. The Mumbai terror attacks in November of 2011 brought international notoriety to the group but also increased vigilance.   Increasingly, Saudi Arabia and India have been working together on counterterrorism, which has lead to the arrests of several high-profile LeT members. [23] Despite international scrutiny, LeT continues to operate openly in Pakistan.  The group actively holds rallies to protest political issues such as U.S. military cooperation with Pakistan, Indian water policies, and NATO agreements. In 2011, LeT founded Difa-e-Pakistan Council, a coalition of Islamist groups opposed to these efforts. [24] Analysts consider LeT to be in a period of restraint, but believe the organization will attempt to launch terrorist attacks in the future. LeT remains ideologically committed to violence and is still a well-resourced and networked organization capable of carrying out major terror attacks. [25]

Leadership


  1. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed (1990 to Present): Saeed is a co-founder and leader of LeT and its charitable wing, JUD. In 2012, the U.S. put a $10 million bounty on the head of Saeed. He lives freely in Pakistan.[26]
  2. Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi (1990 to Present): Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi is a co-founder and the Chief of Operations of LeT. He was named as one of the masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai attack by Indian officials in December of 2008 and arrested shortly after by Pakistani authorities. An anti-terrorism court trying him for the attack ordered his release on bail in April 2015. [27]
  3. Abdul Rehman Makki (1990 to Present): Abdul Rehman Makki is the brother-in-law of LeT founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and is second-in-command of the group. The U.S. has a $2 million bounty on his head due to his close relationship with the late Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. [28]

Ideology & Goals

Lashkar-e-Taiba is a Sunni group, which follows the Ahle-Haith interpretation of Islam. The Ahle-Hadith interpretation is similar to Salafism and Wahhabism and has roots in both the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent. LeT's declared goals include conducting jihad in the way of Allah, preaching the true religion, and training a new generation along true Islamic lines. [29]  Unlike Deoband groups operating in Pakistan, LeT aligns its ideological goals with the interests of the Pakistani state. It seeks to liberate Kashmir, the main source of conflict with India, and merge it with Pakistan using any means necessary. In January of 2009, however, LeT announced that it would consider accepting a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict. [30] The group does not believe in attacking Muslims in its struggle against aggression and oppression. It aims to change the regional and geopolitical dynamic of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India by attacking non-Muslim civilian and government targets. [31] LeT is unique among the Ahle-Hadith groups because unlike other groups, it holds da’wa (preaching) and jihad (fighting) as equal and essential components of Islam. [32]

Size Estimates

Designated/Listed

In 2001, the U.S. Department of State designated Lashkar-e-Taiba as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The Government of Pakistan banned LeT in 2002.  In 2008 the U.S. Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on four LeT leaders.  In April 2012 two senior LeT leaders were placed on the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice list. [34] In 2014, the U.S. amended LeT’s designations to include Jama’at-ud-Dawa as an alias organization. [35]

Resources

Lashkar-e-Taiba is diverse and systematic in its fundraising efforts. Donation boxes for the group are common in Pakistani markets throughout the country. LeT publications include calls for donations. LeT also has benefactors in the Arabian Peninsula and from the Pakistani expatriates around the world. Some donations come from international Islamist charities, like the International Islamic Relief Organization. A fundraising method unique to LeT is collecting animal skins from religious sacrifices selling them to tanneries. In 2010, JUD reportedly collected $1.2 million by selling these skins. [36]

In addition to ISI support, LeT also receives funds from the Pakistani civilian government. This money is usually directed through LeT-run schools and hospitals. [37]  LeT’s international draw has allowed it to open fundraising and recruitment offices in Bangladesh, Nepal, the Maldives, and the Gulf region. There is evidence that LeT has fundraising and recruitment campaigns in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe as well. [38]

External Influences

While LeT’s goals are based on its interpretation of Islam and global events, the group’s actions are heavily influenced by Pakistani ISI and aligned with the Pakistani state’s interests. There is little direct evidence of official Pakistani direction or support of LeT, but analysts, intelligence services, and international organizations regularly make links between the two. [39]  

Geographical Locations

Lashkar-e-Taiba is based near Lahore, Pakistan, but targets India-controlled Kashmir. LeT maintains several facilities such as training camps, medical clinics, and schools in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, Afghanistan, and Pakistan’s Sindh province.  [40] LeT’s international draw has allowed it to open fundraising and recruitment offices in Bangladesh, Nepal, the Maldives, and the Gulf region. There is evidence that LeT has fundraising and recruitment campaigns in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe as well. [41]

Targets & Tactics

Until the mid-2000s, Lashkar-e-Taiba primarily targeted Indian security forces with bombings and shootings. Attacks started becoming more deadly and less discriminatory around 2006, when LeT adopted tactics including serial bombings, marketplace attacks, hostage holding and train bombings. [42] Before being outlawed by Pakistan in 2002, LeT readily accepted credit for its attacks, but has since denied responsibility for its actions, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

A tactic unique to LeT known as fidayeen (translated as “those who sacrifice themselves in order to redeem themselves”), involve heavily armed small squads of gunmen or bombers who strike symbolic targets in an attempt to cause mass casualties. These attacks are distinct from suicide bombings, which LeT has refrained from using, as the attacker can survive a successful attack. This type of attack is an important recruiting tool for LeT, as many Islamic scholars argue that the deliberate taking of one’s own life is not permitted under Islam.  [43]    

Major Attacks


  1. December 13, 2001: A high-profile attack on the Parliament House building in New Delhi. Five attackers, six police officials and one civilian killed. Led to increased military and diplomatic tensions between India and Pakistan. (12 killed).[44]
  2. September 24, 2002: LeT operatives raided Akshardam Temple in the Indian state of Gujarat using guns and hand grenades. (33 killed, 70 wounded).[45]
  3. August 25, 2003: India blamed LeT for a twin car bombing in Mumbai. (52 killed, 150 wounded).[46]
  4. October 28, 2005: Attack on the Indian Institutute of Science campus in Bangalore. (1 killed).[47]
  5. October 29, 2005: LeT was responsible for three coordinated bombings in New Delhi markets and on a bus. This was the deadliest terrorist attack in India in 2005. (63 killed, 200 wounded).[48]
  6. March 7, 2006: Attack on Varanasi (21 killed, 62 wounded).[49]
  7. July 11, 2006: Seven coordinated pressure cooker bombs were detonated on Mumbai commuter trains. (180 killed, 800 wounded).[50]
  8. November 26, 2008: LeT was charged with the coordinated bombing and shooting attacks of multiple targets across Mumbai, including the Taj Mahal hotel, a popular restaurant, a hospital, and a Jewish Center. The only surviving gunman, Ajmal Kasab, confirmed LeT members carried out the attack. These attacks became known as 26/11. (170 killed, 300 wounded).[51]
  9. February 13, 2010: Indian authorities speculate that LeT may have contributed surveillance and planning for the bombing of a German bakery in Pune. (9 killed).[52]

Relationships with Other Groups

Lashkar-e-Taiba has significant ties to the global militant Islamist organizations. LeT has assisted with the training, transport, and protection of many notable Al Qaeda (AQ) figures including Ramzi Yusuf, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. [53] Several Pakistani raids of LeT safe houses and schools have led to the arrest of AQ and AQ-affiliated operatives.  Many high-profile militants have reportedly trained with LeT including Richard Reid, the terrorist who attempted to detonate his shoes on an airplane, and two of the 2005 London subway bombers. [54]  Lashkar-e-Taiba’s links to Al Qaeda date back to LeT’s predecessor organization, MDI. Osama bin Laden is believed to have provided funding for MDI and even attended some of LeT’s first conferences.  [55]

LeT became part of the United Jihad Council in 1993, an umbrella group for militant Islamist organizations operating in Kashmir. As part of the organization, it formed alliances with Harkatul Mujhaideen (HM), Hizb ul Mujhaideen (HuM), Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) and Harkat-ul-Jihadi-Islami (HuJI) against Indian military assets in India controlled Kashmir.   HuJI and JeM broke ties with LeT in 2004 when ISI launched a crackdown against the members of their groups because of suspicions that they were involved in attacks on then President General Pervez Musharraf. [56]    

Community Relationships

In addition to its militant activities, LeT provides extensive social services in Pakistan.  LeT organizes its charitable activities through its front organization, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD).  JuD runs 173 schools across Pakistan, serving more than 18,000 students. JuD also runs three hospitals in Punjab, and operates 66 ambulances. [57] Over 2,000 doctors volunteer their services for the group.  In many areas, the services LeT provides are not available or affordable by other means. [58] These services target impoverished communities that state services do not reach, fostering support for LeT among Pakistanis.  [59] The hospitals, schools, and community services provided are used as a method for proselytization of LeT’s Ahl-e-Hadith interpretation of Islam and to counter the influence of Christian NGOs and missionaries.  LeT also consistently responds to humanitarian disasters like the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 floods. [60] JuD took an active part in providing humanitarian relief to the victims of the October 2005 earthquake in Kashmir. [61] According to Steve Coll, "With its hospitals, universities, and social-service wings, Lashkar is akin to Hezbollah or Hamas; it is a three-dimensional political and social movement with an armed wing, not merely a terrorist or paramilitary outfit."[62] 

Other Key Characteristics & Events

In addition to its militant activities, LeT provides extensive social services in Pakistan.  The hospitals, schools, and community services provided are used as a method for proselytization of LeT’s Ahl-e-Hadith interpretation of Islam and to counter the influence of Christian NGOs and missionaries. LeT runs a network of schools that serve more than 18,000 students. Over 2,000 doctors volunteer their services for the group.  In many areas, the services LeT provides are not available or affordable by other means. [63] These services target impoverished communities that state services do not reach, fostering support for LeT among Pakistanis.  [64] LeT also consistently responds to humanitarian disasters like the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 floods. [65]


References

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