LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — The founder of Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba warned in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press that violence in Indian-ruled Kashmir will escalate. Hafiz Saeed, designated a terrorist by the United States with a $10 million bounty on his head, also said he will lead nationwide demonstrations in Pakistan to force its government to sever ties with the United States if it cannot convince Washington to intervene in the decades old Kashmir dispute.
The U.S.-declared terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba is suspected of carrying out the 2008 Mumbai terror attack and was banned in Pakistan in 2015 but Saeed, who leads its charity arm in Pakistan, travels freely and gives speeches inciting people to attack Western and Indian interests. Indian government has long demanded Islamabad arrest Saeed.
Militants are demanding that the Himalayan state of Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. At least 31 people have been killed in Kashmir amid recent street protests after Indian troops last week killed Burhan Wani, a charismatic Kashmiri insurgent.
“America is supporting this oppression by India by saying it is an internal matter,” Saeed said in the interview, which took place on Wednesday at his home in the eastern city of Lahore. “This has given India encouragement and because of this the killings and violence” will continue.
A Pakistani national, Ajmal Amir Kasab, was the only person arrested in the Mumbai attacks. Kasab testified that he received training at a Lashkar-e-Taiba camp in Muridke, located outside Lahore, where Saeed now lives.
Kasab, who was hanged in India in 2012 for his part in the attacks, also said Saeed was among the inspirational speakers that would visit the training camp. India has repeatedly demanded Pakistan arrest Saeed but when he has been detained, his incarceration has been brief and Pakistani courts, including its Supreme Court has cleared him of terrorism charges
“Many times I have been arrested on the order of America and India . . . (but) the Lahore high court freed me and also my organization saying we were innocent of terrorism charges and did not participate in any terrorist activities,” said Saeed.