Powell freezes assets of two groups battling to end India rule in Kashmir
WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Colin Powell declared two groups based in Pakistan as terrorist organizations and launched a diplomatic blitz to try to head off a conflict between India and Pakistan.
Powell made two telephone calls Wednesday to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and two to Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh urging restraint. These followed earlier calls Monday and Tuesday to Musharraf.
“It is critically important there be a lessening of tensions between India and Pakistan,” Phillip Reeker, a State Department spokesman, said.
He said Powell has told both leaders they need to resolve their differences through dialogue.
India has accused the two groups designated by Powell as terrorist organizations of carrying out a suicide attack Dec. 13 on the Indian parliament.
While Powell’s move against them appears to give tacit support to India, the State Department went out of its way to heap praise on Musharraf, a valued ally in the U.S. campaign against the al-Qaida terrorist network in Afghanistan.
“Musharraf has proved he is a capable and reliable coalition partner in the face of domestic opposition,” Reeker said.
The two groups also are believed to have trained fighters in camps in Afghanistan and are suspected of receiving support from Pakistan’s intelligence agency.
However, the official who provided this information to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said intelligence operatives did not appear to be working with Musharraf’s support.
The training of fighters was carried out in Afghan camps run by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network, the official said.
While the Bush administration does not have proof that the two groups carried out the bloody assault on Dec. 13 in which 14 people died, the administration also has no reason to dispute India’s contention, according to a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity.
Calling the designation an important step in the U.S. war on terrorism, Powell’s action makes it illegal for people in the United States to provide material support to the two anti-India groups.
It also requires U.S. financial institutions to block their assets. While the groups are not known to have such assets in the United States, the order makes it illegal for institutions to permit funds for the two groups to pass through.
The groups, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, claim to be supporting the people of Kashmir and have conducted numerous terrorist attacks in India and Pakistan, Powell said in a statement.
Powell’s move adds the groups to 39 others that were designated as terrorist organizations Dec. 5.
Indicating he supported India’s account, Powell said in his statement: “As the recent horrific attacks against the Indian parliament and the Srinagar legislative assembly so clearly show, the Lashkar e-Tayyiba, Jaish e-Mohammed, and their ilk seek to assault democracy, undermine peace and stability in South Asia and destroy relations between India and Pakistan.”
The parliament in Srinagar, the regional capital in the part of Kashmir controlled by India, was attacked Oct. 1 and 38 people died.
Pakistan also froze the assets of the two groups Monday and briefly detained the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed on Tuesday. But India said the steps fell far short of its demands that the groups’ activities be halted and their leaders arrested and handed over to India.
Last April, the State Department said the Kashmiri militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed was founded by Maulana Massood Azhar, and identified him as the leader of a terrorist group that was active in Pakistan “without discouragement of the government of Pakistan” and said he had threatened the United States.
Last week, President Bush announced he was moving to cut off financing to Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and also a group known as Umma Tameer-e-Nau or UTN, which is suspected of giving nuclear technology to Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council ordered a global freeze on the assets of UTN, two former nuclear scientists and a Pakistani industrialist suspected of links to bin Laden. That action makes it mandatory for all 189 U.N. member nations to freeze any assets belonging to the group and the three individuals.
Neither the UTN nor Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, or LAT, has assets in the United States, officials said last week. That left Bush relying on Pakistan and other nations to give his executive order real teeth.
Powell’s action enables the State Department to deny visas to representatives of the groups.
Powell said the United States looked forward to working with India and Pakistan to shut down the two groups.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have escalated since India accused Pakistan’s spy agency of sponsoring the attack on Parliament that it charged was carried out by the two groups.
Pakistan has denied to charges.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir, a mostly Muslim region in the Himalayan Mountains that is divided between them.
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