ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Hafiz Saeed, a Pakistani Islamist with a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head, led prayers at a mosque in Islamabad on Friday and called on his country’s military to shoot down any American drones entering Pakistani territory.
The anti-U.S. rhetoric came as the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan visited Islamabad for the first time since last month’s killing of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a drone strike in western Pakistan.
U.S. and Pakistan relations have been strained by the strike, which Islamabad has protested against as a violation of its sovereignty.
Friday’s public appearance by Saeed, whom the U.S. and India accuse of masterminding a 2008 attack on India’s financial capital Mumbai that killed 166 people, was another reminder of the many sore points in the Pakistani-U.S. relationship.
The United States has offered $10 million for information leading to Saeed’s arrest and conviction, but he remains free.
He maintains a low profile for much of the time, meaning his occasional public appearances and pronouncements are closely watched.
“The U.S. stands with India in their enmity towards Pakistan,” Saeed told a crowd of hundreds of people after leading Friday prayers at the Islamabad mosque.
“We want to request the army chief and make the air chief realize that it is their duty to shoot down any drone that comes into Pakistan and respond to it in kind.”
In response to the May 21 drone strike that killed Mansour, an Islamist charity Saeed heads, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), has announced a series of anti-U.S. protests in major cities, with Saeed expected to be a featured speaker.
Pakistan’s top foreign policy official and its powerful military chief met Richard Olson, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, during a visit.
A statement from the military said Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif had expressed “serious concern” over the U.S. drone strike. The U.S. embassy in Islamabad said it had no statement on Olson’s visit.
Writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Kay Johnson and Robert Birsel