US, Israel concerned, disappointed over Lakhvi’s release

New Delhi/Washington: The US and Israel have expressed concern and disappointment over the release of 2008 Mumbai terror attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi from a Pakistani jail.

Conveying its grave concern, the US has asked Pakistan to follow through on its commitment to bring the attack perpetrators to justice.

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“We are gravely concerned about the release on bail of alleged Mumbai attack mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi,” State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke told reporters on Friday in response to a question.

The US has “communicated that concern to senior Pakistani officials over the course of many months, and as recently as yesterday,” he said, urging Islamabad to follow through on its commitment to bring the perpetrators of Mumbai attacks to justice.

“Terrorist attacks are an assault on the collective safety and security of all countries,” Rathke said.

Lakhvi was released from Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi on Friday, a day after the Lahore High Court suspended his detention and ordered his immediate release.

Pakistan, the spokesman noted, “has pledged its cooperation in bringing the perpetrators, financiers, and sponsors of the Mumbai terrorist attacks to justice”.

“We urge Pakistan to follow through on that commitment to ensure justice for the 166 innocent people, including six Americans, who lost their lives,” he said.

Asked if the release would have any repercussions for Pakistan, Rathke said the US had conveyed its concern in Islamabad, but he would not “speculate about consequences or repercussions”.

“But I think I’ve made clear that we’re, again, as I said, gravely concerned about this development.”

Since “this has just happened in the last few hours. So of course we’re going to look at this development and decide what consequences to draw from it,” Rathke said when asked why Pakistan should take US concern seriously.

“But I’m not going to get ahead of that process.” He was “not going to put a timeline on it,” Rathke said.

“But certainly, bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attacks to justice is a key priority.

“And we stand by that. So we’ll continue working in that direction, but I don’t have any further specific steps to outline right now.”

Israel on Saturday said it was “surprised and disappointed” at the release of Lakhvi and termed it a “setback for the international efforts in the war against terror in which India and Israel are close partners”.

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Carmon in New Delhi in a statement said: “Israel is surprised and disappointed by the release of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the mastermind of the Mumbai attack in which as part of the horrific attack also Israeli nationals and a Jewish Centre — the Nariman House — were targeted. This release is a setback for the international efforts in the war against terror in which India and Israel are close partners.”

On Friday, French President Francois Hollande also voiced indignation at the release on bail of Lakhvi.

“We want to express indignation at the terrorist’s release”, he told visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, adding that it was not good for stability or for development and peace.

The issue of Lakhvi’s release also featured in talks between Modi and senior politicians in France at the National Assembly.

The French delegation at the National Assembly raised the issue twice.

“Twice the French delegation raised the issue of the unfortunate release of Lakhvi in Pakistan and said it was not good news either for India or the world,” Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson India’s external affairs ministry, said.

Lakhvi is among the seven people charged with planning and helping carry out the November 26, 2008, Mumbai attack. The six other men facing trial for their alleged involvement are Hammad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jamil Riaz, Younas Anjum, Jamil Ahmed, Mazhar Iqbal and Abdul Majid.

At the time of the Mumbai atttack, Lakhvi was believed to be the operational head of the banned Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT), accused by India of carrying out the attacks in the country’s financial capital.

Lakhvi and six others were indicted for the Mumbai attacks in Pakistan on the basis of evidence provided by the Indian government.

The evidence included a confession by Ajmal Kasab — the lone terrorist captured alive and later hanged to death following a trial — and satellite phone data recovered from a boat that the attackers had hijacked enroute from the Pakistani coastal city of Karachi to Mumbai.