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December 18, 2001
1020 IST

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US to declare Jaish, Lashkar as
terrorist organisations 'soon'

Aziz Haniffa in Washington

Pakistan-based terrorist groups Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad are likely to be declared 'foreign terrorist organisations' either this week or early next week.

Lashkar and Jaish already figure in US blacklists such as "terrorist exclusion list," which prevents members of these organisations or their supporters from entering the United States.

Senior Bush administration officials in an exclusive briefing to rediff.com said: "We are moving forward and we are accelerating the two cases. Lashkar and Jaish would be named FTOs soon, very soon."

When this reporter asked one senior official if it could be this week or the next, the official said: "I won't say no."

The official acknowledged that the inter-agency involved in the process of compiling the FTO list had reached a consensus that there was enough evidence linking these groups "with the heinous attack" on the Indian parliament and the earlier attack in October on the state assembly in Srinagar.

"We were moving fast on it," the official said and recalled that Jaish had "claimed responsibility" for the Srinagar attack.

When asked if the attack on Parliament was the last straw, the officials said: "We were moving against these groups anyway. Srinagar was horrifying and this (the attack on Parliament) was once again an attack on democratic institutions."

Diplomatic observers said the decision to put Lashkar and Jaish in the list of FTOs was taken immediately after a high-level meeting convened by Secretary of State Colin Powell a day after the attack in Delhi.

The decision was prompted by concern that India may resort to hot pursuit against these groups and go into Pakistani territory.

By quickly naming these groups FTOs, the US administration believed, it may be able to pacify India to some extent and prevent New Delhi from taking any retaliatory action that could precipitate a war and complicate Washington's anti-terrorism campaign against Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan.

When a senior US official was asked if Lashkar and Jaish's inclusion in the FTO list will not be objected to by Pakistan, he said: "President Musharraf has been very clear that the groups involved (in terrorist activities) will suffer the consequences."

Complete Coverage: The Attack on Parliament

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